Blast off: the latest space tourism and extraterrestrial experiences (2023)

With the right amount of money, anyone can buy a ticket to space. For a mere half a million dollars, prosperous passengers can enjoy a suborbital trip. Or, for $50 million, orbital expeditions are on offer. Commercial spaceflight, or space tourism, is currently valued at more than $450 billion. Furthermore, it is expected to grow to more than $1 trillion by 2040.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts the US will need more than 1.5 million workers to power the space economy. From the first astronomical date to ‘out of this world’ hotels, we explore some of the latest developments in commercial space exploration and space tourism.

Suborbital versus orbital

Let’s begin with the difference between suborbital and orbital space travel. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are providing cheaper suborbital trips. Meanwhile, SpaceX and Axiom are taking paying customers on orbital journeys.

Suborbital travel involves taking a spacecraft to the border of space without sending it into orbit. A suborbital flight requires a speed of about 2,200 mph (Mach 3), Forbes explains. Passengers go to between 50 and 70 miles above Earth for a few short minutes. Suborbital excursions are essentially a quick look at space before falling down to Earth again.

Orbital flight, however, involves staying in orbit. This means flying around the planet at very high speeds so as not to fall back down on Earth. Orbital travel requires a speed of 17,500 mph (Mach 23) to place customers into an elliptical orbit above the planet. SpaceX, NASA and Axiom Space are providing commercial spaceflights to the International Space Station, which is 254 miles up. Customers spend days or months in orbit.

There’s a big difference in price. For example, a seat on SpaceX’s orbital spacecraft costs between $50 million and $100 million. For suborbital flights, Virgin Galactic charges $450,000 and Blue Origin around $900,000.

Commercial spaceflight with Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos‘ Blue Origin successfully completed its first space tourism flight on the New Shepard spacecraft in July 2021. New Shepard is named after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to fly to space. It is a reusable suborbital rocket system designed to take astronauts past the Kármán line.

Blast off: the latest space tourism and extraterrestrial experiences (3)

“My expectations were high and they were dramatically exceeded,” said Bezos at the post-flight press conference. “It felt so serene and peaceful. It’s a very pleasurable experience.”

Blue Origin’s efforts include flying astronauts to space on the New Shepard, building “space habitats” and also returning to the surface of the moon. The company has been flight-testing the New Shepard rocket since 2012. In August 2022, Blue Origin completed its sixth human spaceflight and the 22nd flight for the New Shepard spacecraft.

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“It’s been just over a year since New Shepard’s first human flight, and we have now flown 31 humans above the Kármán line,” said Phil Joyce, senior vice president of the New Shepard.

Virgin Galactic

Founded by billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is an aerospace and space tourism company. Despite getting approval to fly private customers to space in 2021 and selling tickets to the public from February 2022, Virgin Galactic recently delayed the launch of its commercial spaceflight service to the second quarter of 2023.

“While our short-term plans now call for commercial service to launch in the second quarter of 2023, progress on our future fleet continues and many of the key elements of our roadmap are now in place to scale the business in a meaningful way,” Virgin CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement.

The commercial spaceflight launches from Spaceport America in New Mexico. During the trip, astronauts enjoy a 90-minute journey. This includes out-of-seat weightlessness as well as spectacular views of Earth from the vehicle’s windows.

Last year, the company appointed former Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde to help design the experience journey as the first ‘experience architect’. “I spent 40 years with Walt Disney Imagineering and that word, ‘Imagineering’, refers to the fusion of imagination and engineering,” said Rohde.

“This is one of the most profound things that can happen to you. To go beyond the reaches of the earth, to space, and look back down at it,” he added.

“What Virgin Galactic is doing, in democratizing space travel, has reached a moment where it is about to enter history. It’s happening right here in New Mexico, and it’s very rare to be a person who gets to be in the place, at the time, that history begins.”

SpaceX, Axiom and NASA

SpaceX’s first space tourism mission to the International Space Station took place in April this year and was dubbed Ax-1. Elon Musk’s company, in collaboration with Axiom, put a group of four private citizens into orbit. They got there via a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.

“What a historic launch! Thank you to the dedicated teams at NASA who have worked tirelessly to make this mission a reality,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson. “NASA’s partnership with industry through the commercial cargo and crew programs has led our nation to this new era in human spaceflight – one with limitless potential.”

Ax-1 was the second space tourism flight for SpaceX. This followed the launch of four private citizens on a three-day trip through orbit in September 2021. The third private SpaceX launch, called Ax-2, will send another four customers to the ISS for a 10-day stay.

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NASA and Axiom are targeting spring 2023 for the upcoming mission. Ax-2’s passengers launch on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and ride a Dragon capsule to and from the orbiting space station, as the Ax-1 crew did. The commercial spaceflight departs from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“With each new step forward, we are working together with commercial space companies and growing the economy in low-Earth orbit,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters.

“In addition to expanding access to orbit for more people, we are also hoping these private astronaut missions will help the industry learn and develop the skillset to conduct such missions, and NASA is benefitting from gaining additional capability, particularly with returning additional cargo from the space station.”

“Axiom Space’s Ax-2 mission builds upon the success of Ax-1, which demonstrated our team’s ability to work collaboratively with our partners at NASA and SpaceX to plan and execute a complex human spaceflight mission,” said Derek Hassmann, Axiom’s chief of mission integration and operations.

“Axiom continues to fund and fly private astronaut missions to the International Space Station to build our expertise and attract new customers in preparation for the launch of our space station, Axiom Station.”

Space station tourism

China has revealed plans to open the country’s Tiangong space station to tourists within 10 years. Tiangong is China’s first fully modular space station. The first module, called Tianhe, was launched into orbit in April 2021 and was occupied by July 2021, Space reports. Tiangong’s final modules should launch later this year.

Yang Liwei became the first Chinese astronaut in 2003. He said tourists visiting Tiangong “is not a matter of technology but of demand”. Liwei said it is likely that people without astronaut training could be launched into orbit.

“And it can be realised within a decade as long as there is such demand,” he said. China is also working on a tourist-friendly reusable spacecraft that could take up to seven people to the station.

Space hotels

Orbital Assembly Corporation’s space hotels could open to cash-rich customers as early as 2025. The space company’s new space tourism concept, called Pioneer, can accommodate 28 people. Its smaller scale means it’s able to open sooner rather than later. Orbital Assembly’s previously-announced Voyager Station, which can hold up to 400 guests, is scheduled to open later in 2027.

“The goal has always been to make it possible for large amounts of people to live, work and thrive in space,” Tim Alatorre, Orbital Assembly’s chief operating officer told CNN Travel. “It’s going to get us the opportunity to have people start to experience space on a larger scale, faster.”

(Video) Space tourism: $125,000 balloon trip to the edge of space

Both stations feature artificial gravity, so guests can eat and drink sitting down and clean themselves in the shower. Voyager Station boasts viewing platforms to see Earth, as well as a bar, spa and gym. There are also 3D holograms, digital wall art and robots. A restaurant serves ‘space classics’ such as Tang and freeze-dried ice cream.

Described as a “sci-fi dream”, the stations are furnished like luxury hotels. Alatorre said the company is “doing everything we can to make space accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy”.

Orbital Assembly has “talked to pretty much everybody” in the private space industry about collaborating because “the one thing that all of these companies are missing is the destination”, he said. “It’s kind of like if you want to go see the Grand Canyon and you drive past it and come right back home.”

Dating in space

LUSSO Dating is perhaps the most exclusive and expensive dating site in the world. It is on a mission to match two singles for the first date in space. LUSSO Dating is the brainchild of David Minns, an online dating entrepreneur and mechanical engineer who has worked in the aerospace and space industry. Minns has even given lectures to rocket scientists.

“LUSSO Dating’s challenge is to connect two like-minded singles who are willing to go into space and have the financial power to back it up,” said LUSSO Dating. “It’s probably advisable to split the bill on this one!”

Commercial spaceflight and World View

Meanwhile, World View has unveiled its designs for a capsule to fly passengers to “the edge of space”. Here, they can “witness the curvature of Earth”. World View is already taking bookings for its commercial spaceflights, beginning in 2024. Tickets cost $50,000 per seat.

Designed by PriestmanGoode, a zero-pressure stratospheric balloon lifts the capsule. This then rises nearly 23 miles above Earth for an experience that lasts between six and eight hours. Flights are to lift off from landmarks including both the Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef.

“Unveiling our space capsule prototype is a pivotal moment for the company as we continue to prepare for our first launch from the Grand Canyon in just two short years,” said Ryan Hartman, president and CEO of World View. “We are thrilled to partner with leaders in aerospace design and engineering to bring our vision to life and ensure spaceflight participants enjoy a truly transformative experience.”

Passengers enjoy a gourmet meal and drinks during the flight. Large oval windows offer “impressive views of the Earth’s curvature and its natural wonders”. “Along the journey, passengers will take in the curvature of the Earth, thin blue line of the atmosphere, vast darkness of space and constellations,” said World View.

Space Perspective

Space Perspective is also preparing to lift passengers to the edge of space via its Spaceship Neptune capsule and a giant balloon. The capsule, which is now in production, features the world’s first ‘space lounge’.

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“The team has come together to create an amazingly robust, safe, and incredibly elegant and luxurious system for Spaceship Neptune,” said Taber MacCallum, founder, co-CEO and CTO of Space Perspective. “Simplicity and automation are the keys to safety.”

Commercial spaceflights will begin in late 2024. Space tourists will “safely ascend to the edge of space” in the capsule before landing in the ocean. Passengers, as well as the capsule and balloon, are retrieved by ship.

The spacecraft also offers spectacular views through its huge windows. “The pioneering 360-degree windows will be accompanied by satellite imagery and 360-degree cameras to zoom in and out on the incredible vista,” said Dan Window, experience design lead, and Isabella Trani, experience designer.

Tickets cost $125,000 per person. Despite that, Space Perspective’s co-CEO and CXO Jane Poynter told blooloop the team wants to make space as accessible to as many people as possible.

“The first step is reimagining the experience so that more and more people can envision themselves going. That starts with the whole experience of using a space balloon because it is so gentle. You don’t have those high-g forces – you don’t need much training,” she said.

“Next, we reimagined the interior. Instead of being a functional, austere, white interior, we have created a space lounge that, in some regards, feels familiar. Outside the windows is this insane view, but we want people to feel comfortable, almost contemplative, if that’s what they want, as they go to space.”

Commercial spaceflight training

Star Harbor is creating the world’s first private spaceflight training facility for the coming influx of people wanting to experience space tourism. The 53-acre facility, called the Star Harbor Academy, is located in Lone Tree, Colorado. It is being designed by AOA, a leading immersive experience design, production, and project management company,and is due to open in 2026.

Star Harbor will train and certify commercial space travellers through four programmes. These are for operators, users, mission specialists and passengers. The academy offers microgravity flights, a neutral buoyancy facility and a high-gravity centrifuge, as well as land-based and underwater habitats, There are also hypobaric and hyperbaric chambers, simulation labs, and a human performance centre.

It also has a space-themed hotel and entertainment venues including an esports arena. The campus hopes to attract more than two million annual visitors.

Star Harbor is led and founded by Maraia Tanner, an astrophysicist and former aerospace engineer. She says there is an “unprecedented renaissance occurring within the space industry”. The company hopes to “foster a new generation of explorers, innovators, entrepreneurs, educators and technologies to leave a powerful, positive legacy for generations to come”.

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FAQs

Who is the most recent space tourist? ›

Although, Jeff Bezos himself flew on a 10-minute space flight on July 20, 2021 as part of the four-member crewed mission into space. However, it was Richard Branson who became the first spaceflight company founder to travel on his own ship into outer space on July 11, 2021.

What are the effects of space tourism? ›

The burgeoning space tourism industry could soon fuel significant global warming while also depleting the protective ozone layer that is crucial for sustaining life on Earth, a new study concludes.

How much did Dennis Tito pay to go to space? ›

Few people had heard of aerospace engineer and financial analyst Dennis Tito before 2001. That was the year Tito, then 60, became the first paying space tourist, cutting a $20 million check to Russia to fly aboard a Soyuz spacecraft and spend a week aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

What kind of space tourism exists today? ›

There are several different types of space tourism, including orbital, suborbital and lunar space tourism.

Who recently went to space 2022? ›

Wentian was successfully launched and docked to the space station on 24 July 2022, while Mengtian was launched on 31 October 2022 and was docked to the space station later that day. On 19 May 2022, Boeing launched the almost six-day (landing 25 May 2022) second uncrewed test flight of its Starliner space capsule.

Who is currently in space 2022? ›

Remaining aboard the station is the seven-person crew of Expedition 66 with Station Commander Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency), NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, Frank Rubio, and Jessica Watkins, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin.

What are the negative effects of space travel? ›

a The key threats to human health and performance associated with spaceflight are radiation, altered gravity fields, hostile and closed environments, distance from Earth, and isolation and confinement. From these five hazards stem the health and performance risks studied by NASA's Human Research Program.

What is your opinion of space tourism? ›

There are a few scientific benefits of space tourism, though the most recent flights were perhaps not long enough to offer too much insight. When, in the future, we see longer space flights, we'll have the opportunity to study long-term physiological changes in humans as a result of being in space.

Is Laika the dog still in space? ›

Laika, a Moscow street dog, became the first creature to orbit Earth, but she died in space.

Would cell phones work in space? ›

The Smartphone will not reach any cell towers due to excessive distance so the cellular phone, texting and network functions will not work. Wifi and Bluetooth will work with any compatible transceivers within range.

How much was Neil Armstrong paid to go to the moon? ›

At the time of the Apollo 11 flight in 1969, Neil Armstrong was paid a salary of $27,401 and was the highest paid of the flying astronauts, according to the Boston Herald. That translates to $190,684 in 2019 dollars.

How will space tourism change the world? ›

Commercial space tourism has the potential to boost the economy by creating jobs and encouraging investment. Advances in research. Spending more time in space could help solve some of the most baffling mysteries about the universe. Opportunity to experience space.

What is the future of space tourism? ›

Space hotels are likely to be the next venture for many to support the space tourism sector. One company, Orion Span, has developed plans for the first-ever “affordable” luxury space hotel called 'Aurora station'. Orion Span is looking to launch in 2021 and start welcoming guests in 2022.

How much of the space has been discovered 2022? ›

As of now, experts have explored about four percent of the apparent space. That consists of exoplanets, stars, and galaxies that astronomers can see.

Why did NASA stop sending people to space? ›

NASA's total budget was cut and the remaining program of human flights was redirected toward the less expensive Apollo-Soyus joint flight with the USSR, the three Skylad missions (the first space station), and eventually the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.

How many people are currently on the space station? ›

The space station has been continuously occupied since November 2000. An international crew of seven people live and work while traveling at a speed of five miles per second, orbiting Earth about every 90 minutes. Sometimes more are aboard the station during a crew handover.

How much do astronauts get paid? ›

Astronauts who work for civilian agencies like NASA earn a base salary of $104,898 per year. However, their salaries can increase to $161,141 per year.

Is space Force real 2022? ›

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-6 (OTV-6), the U.S. Space Force's unmanned, reusable spaceplane, successfully deorbited and landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Nov. 12, 2022, at 05:22 a.m.

How many people live on the Moon? ›

The current population (human) of the moon is zero.

Is space travel safer now? ›

Experts have stated that these advancements have greatly reduced the overall risk of flying into the cosmos. Space.com noted that "a ride on SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is about three times safer than a ride on NASA's space shuttle was in the final years of its operation."

What is the biggest obstacle to space travel? ›

Star Wars would have you believe that the greatest challenges to space travel is asteroids, lack of resources like water or fuel, or even the threat of unfriendly, intelligent alien life. But in reality, scientists are finding that the biggest obstacle to today's space travel is dust. Yes, space dust.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of space exploration? ›

5 Space research and its impact on social issues and problems
AdvantagesDisadvantages
Positive life changes to humankindNot reducing poverty in underdeveloped countries
Finding essential minerals in spaceSpace travelling costs
Finding other living species in spaceRisk to astronauts
Challenge of adventure
1 more row

How does space travel affect our daily lives? ›

Overcoming the challenges of working in space has led to many technological and scientific advances that have provided benefits to society on Earth in areas including health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology, and industrial productivity.

Are there human bodies in space? ›

Are there any human bodies floating in space (Deceased)? Nope. Everyone who had died in spacecraft has come down to Earth, although the Columbia astronauts were badly mangled in the process. (The Challenger astronauts never actually got into space.)

What is the benefits of space tourism? ›

Space tourism will boost scientific research

As more people begin to travel to space, they will directly drive the creation of a new industry. Many investors claim that this industry will result in enormous benefits for humanity, including advancements in technological innovation and scientific research.

How will space tourism affect the economy? ›

With technological advances and more interest from the public, by 2030, space tourism is expected to become a $4 billion industry, while the entire space economy is projected to be worth $900 billion by 2030, according to a dossier published by Statista.

Why was Laika poisoned? ›

After a week in orbit, the Los Angeles Times reported, she would be fed poisoned food, “in order to keep her from suffering a slow agony.” When the moment came, Russian scientists reassured the public that Laika had been comfortable, if stressed, for much of her flight, that she had died painlessly, and that she had ...

Do they regret sending Laika to space? ›

Looking back, there are regrets over sending Laika to her doom. In her book, Soviet Space Dogs, Olesya Turkina quotes one of the scientists that worked on the mission, “The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it.

Was Laika scared? ›

Throughout all of this, Laika was absolutely terrified. Her heart was beating at triple its normal rate during the launch. With no handlers to comfort her—as they had after centrifuge tests—it took much longer than usual for her to calm down.

Is there WIFI in space? ›

NASA and international collaborators have harnessed the inherent strengths of Wi-Fi to improve connectivity in space for more than a decade, with more innovation still to come. The first Wi-Fi network in space was installed in January 2008 using Wi-Fi 4, the IEEE 802.11n standard.

What is not allowed in space? ›

Common items like salt and bread are banned from the International Space Station due to fears that they'll send floating pieces everywhere and potentially damage space equipment or accidentally get inhaled by astronauts. Basic eating, sleeping, and showering habits must also be modified.

How cold is space? ›

Space is very, very cold. The baseline temperature of outer space is 2.7 kelvins (opens in new tab) — minus 454.81 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 270.45 degrees Celsius — meaning it is barely above absolute zero, the point at which molecular motion stops.

Do astronauts pay taxes? ›

The US taxes based on citizenship, meaning that all Americans have to file US taxes, regardless of whether they are in the US or not, or even if they're 'off-planet'.

Did Neil Armstrong leave his daughter's bracelet on the moon? ›

Roger Launius, the former NASA chief historian and a former senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum, agreed, saying, “there is no evidence to support the assertion that he left a bracelet of his daughter on the moon.” Though apparently fiction, the moment is a critical one.

How much money is a ticket to the moon? ›

But if $450,000 sounds like a lot of money to you, you'd better sit down before I tell you how much it will cost NASA to send astronauts to the moon again. $4.1 billion per four-person flight. That's $1,025,000,000 per astronaut. Image source: Getty Images.

How does space travel affect society? ›

human activities in space having influenced life on Earth in a number of ways. Satellite communications, Earth observation, applications of space technology and the knowledge gained from space exploration are some of the most profound ones.

What is the value of space tourism? ›

The global Space Tourism Market was valued USD 562.5 Million in 2021 and is all set to surpass USD 3622.5 Million by 2028, exhibiting a CAGR of 36.4% during the forecast period 2022-2028.

Will space tourism become popular? ›

The concept of space tourism is growing in popularity all the time, and there are a growing number of businesses engaging in activities within the space tourism industry. For those who are hoping to one-day visit space as a private astronaut, the following companies may offer the best chance of achieving that dream.

What is an example of space tourism? ›

Orbital space tourism. As of 2021, Space Adventures and SpaceX are the only companies to have coordinated tourism flights to Earth's orbit. Virginia-based Space Adventures has worked with Russia to use its Soyuz spacecraft to fly ultra-wealthy individuals to the International Space Station.

Which country is best for space? ›

The Space Race, by Country
RankCountryCumulative Number of Objects Launched into Space
#1United States5,534
#2Russia3,611
#3China731
#4UK515
6 more rows
8 Jul 2022

How long is 1 hour in space? ›

Explanation: The clocks in space tick more slowly than clocks on Earth., HENCE COVERING LESS TIME AS COMPARED TO EARTH IN THE SAME DURATION. One hour on Earth is 0.0026 seconds in space. Thus, upon calculation we find that one hour on Earth is equivalent to seven years in space.

What does space smell like? ›

We can't smell space directly, because our noses don't work in a vacuum. But astronauts aboard the ISS have reported that they notice a metallic aroma – like the smell of welding fumes – on the surface of their spacesuits once the airlock has re-pressurised.

Can human travel in space? ›

As of 2021, humans have not traveled beyond low Earth orbit since the Apollo 17 lunar mission in December 1972. Currently, the United States, Russia, and China are the only countries with public or commercial human spaceflight-capable programs.

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