Space travel has risen to the top of travel lists for those who can afford it, after successful suborbital escapades by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX’s launch of four civilians in orbit Wednesday.
High-profile travel takes space travel up a notch in an extreme – and expensive – travel menu that already includes adventures such as climbing Mount Everest, skiing in Antarctica, and a nature safari. in Africa.
“For many extreme adventure travelers, we are now where space is as accessible as Mount Everest and other places,” said Joshua Bush, CEO of luxury travel agency Avenue Two Travel and space agent accredited for Virgin Galactic. “It will take a significant budget and a lot of planning, but the successful launches last summer indicate that all systems are working.”
Space is definitely opening up as an option for travelers looking for something more ambitious.
While many people who want to book space travel are avid aviation and space enthusiasts, others see it as “the next big adventure to a place where less than 1,000 people have been,” said Bush. “Others see this as the dawn of a new industry and how they too can be pioneers.”
“These future astronauts all have unique and personal reasons for leaving. Their common thread is a passion just to go there, ”he said.
There are more ways than ever for people to get to space, said Geoff Nunn, assistant curator for space history at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
“The space is definitely opening up. There are other options for those who might want something more ambitious, ”said Nunn, including space tourism company Space Adventures, which is booking flights to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. .
For suborbital flight tickets, Virgin Galactic already has a waiting list of around 600 customers who have booked flights for $ 250,000. However, the company recently increased its prices to $ 450,000 per seat and increased the deposit to $ 149,000, ”Nunn said.
Blue Origin has yet to release pricing, but the company has auctioned off a seat for its first space flight for $ 28 million.
There are cheaper options for getting a seat on a space flight.
Later this month, Virgin Galactic and charity fundraising platform Omaze will announce the winner of a contest held over the summer to donate a pair of seats on an upcoming commercial space flight.
But even with a ticket, the wait time to board a suborbital commercial flight can be long.
“For suborbital, the opportunities will be very limited over the next few years,” said Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures. “Virgin and Blue Origin have demonstrated their long-spoken capability. But now they have to move on from showing that it can be done once to doing it safely and regularly. “
It could take years, Shelley said. “But this is the start of this transition from a dream and a possibility to becoming a reality of scheduled flight.”
While waiting and saving for their space flights, citizen astronauts have other issues to consider.
“Leaving the atmosphere is difficult, and you want to make sure you understand the danger and the safety precautions in place before you agree to go,” Nunn said. the moment.”
Even Amazon billionaire founder Jeff Bezos couldn’t get insurance for his trip to space.
In 2012, Gregory Schneider won a ticket for a trip to suborbital space, presented by astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in a competition sponsored by Space Needle and Space Adventures Seattle. Competitors had to complete a series of challenges, including a captive outdoor walk to the top of the 520-foot-high Space Needle.
“The prize was for a flight that was going to be on a rocket being built by Armadillo Aerospace, which went bankrupt a few years later,” Schneider said. “Then one of Virgin Galactic’s spaceships blew up, and it looked like this space travel wasn’t going to happen any time soon. “
Schneider demanded the cash value of $ 110.00 of the prize and paid off his law student loans.
Now that suborbital flights are a reality, Schneider says he is “a little nostalgic and a little disappointed” to no longer have a ticket.
“But I’m optimistic that the technology will improve and the price will come down,” he said.