History Of Space Tourism Essay

This story is part of a SPACE.com series to mark a decade of space tourism. Coming tomorrow: The future of space tourism and its impact on space science.

If the era of commercial spaceflight has a birthday, it's April 28, 2001.

On that date, American businessman Dennis Tito became history's first space tourist, paying his own way to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Forty years to the month after Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, Tito showed that there was money to be made in human spaceflight -- potentially lots of money, as he plunked down a reported $20 million for his flight.

Now, 10 years later, the industry looks set to heat up, with multiple firms jockeying for position in a commercial space race that is arguably already under way.

"The private spaceflight industry did start with Dennis' flight," said Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures, the Virginia-based company that brokered Tito's eight-day mission with Russia's Federal Space Agency and has sent a total of seven people on eight orbital flights since 2001. "That was the first real milestone and demonstrated to a lot of people that there was a market for private citizens to go to space." [Photos: The World's First Space Tourists]

A lifelong dream, nearly deferred

Tito made his millions in the world of finance. But he was once an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and has been a space enthusiast since he was a teenager.

"My dream was to fly in space before I die," Tito said. "And I basically came up with that lifelong goal around the time of Yuri Gagarin's flight."

In early 2000, Tito started working toward making his dream a reality. He would turn 60 later that year, and he felt like his chances of getting into space were rapidly running out. The oldest rookie spaceflyer at the time, after all, was NASA astronaut Deke Slayton, who first made it to orbit in 1975 at the age of 51.

"So I was gettting over the hill, I thought," Tito told SPACE.com. "So I said, 'It's now or never.'"

In June 2000, Tito signed a deal with a company called MirCorp to ride a Soyuz to Russia's Mir space station. However, those plans fell through in December of that year, when Russia announced that it planned to deorbit the aging station. (Mir burned up in Earth's atmosphere in March 2001.)

Undeterred, Tito soon made other arrangements. He signed on with Space Adventures, which brokered an April 2001 flight to the International Space Station, again on a Soyuz. The station was a relatively new project at the time, having just begun assembly operations in November 1998.

NASA makes it tough

The Russians agreed to take Tito's money and offer him a seat on a Soyuz. But the other station partners -- notably NASA and space agencies from Canada, Europe and Japan -- were not so thrilled. They informed Russia that they "recommended against" Tito's mission.

NASA officials said at the time that they didn't object in principle to the presence of a paying customer aboard the orbiting lab. They just didn't think Tito's training would be sufficient by April, which they said was a time of complex and crucial station operations.

"During this period, the presence of a nonprofessional crewmember who is untrained on all critical station systems, is unable to respond and assist in any contingency situation which may arise, and who would require constant supervision, would add a significant burden to the Expedition and detract from the overall safety of the International Space Station," reads a NASA press release from March 19, 2001.

Tito thinks his age may also have been a factor.

"If you're older, heart attacks happen, strokes happen, whatever," he said. "And what are they going to do, transport a corpse back to Earth? That would be very embarrassing for them, and traumatic."

So NASA did what it could to keep Tito from getting off the ground in April, according to Tito and Space Adventures officials.

"They put up everything that they could throw in the way to make it not happen," Shelley told SPACE.com.

Eight months at Star City

Meanwhile, Tito carried on. He continued his training at the Star City complex outside Moscow, where cosmonauts have prepped for flight since Gagarin's day. Tito spent the better part of a year there, toiling in a sort of limbo.

"It wasn't easy," Tito said. "I had to hang out in Russia for eight months without really knowing whether I was going to fly or not."

Eventually, Tito's perseverance paid off. Over NASA's objections, he launched on April 28, 2001, becoming the 415th person ever to reach space. But Tito said all the drama and difficulties are water under the bridge, especially since the agency has been so supportive of the six other space tourists who have since flown to the orbiting lab -- and so supportive of private spaceflight in general over the past decade. [10 Years of Space Tourism]

"Their support is stronger than I would've ever dreamed or hoped for," Tito said. "So my bottom line is, I have nothing but good things to say about NASA."

Fulfilling the dream

Tito made it to orbit, spent about six days aboard the space station, and then landed in Kazakhstan on May 6, 2001.

His mission has had a lasting impact, inspiring a range of private spaceflight investment and activity, according to Shelley.

"I think [Virgin Galactic's] Richard Branson and [Blue Origin's] Jeff Bezos, and even Elon [Musk of SpaceX] -- they really wouldn't be in this industry if it wasn't for what Dennis originally did," Shelley said. Tito's flight, he added, demonstrated "that this was a feasible activity for private citizens to step up and pay the money."

For his part, Tito said he is happy to have been a part of the birth of this industry, though he shifts praise onto spaceflight entrepreneurs and the orbital tourists who came after him. And for him, of course, the trip will always resonate on a much more personal level.

"To me, it was a 40-year dream," Tito said. "The thing I have taken away from it is a sense of completeness for my life -- that everything else I would do in my life would be a bonus."

You can follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter: @michaeldwall. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Anders Lindsköld

Abstract

Space tourism is a natural extension of today's worldwide tourism industry. Instead of traveling around the world, tourists go to space. Anyone will be able to buy a ticket. No astronaut training is needed. This has not happened yet, but a lot of activities are taking place in the world today to make it come true.

Space tourism may be the missing link of space travel that we have been trying to discover for so many years. With the help of space tourism, we can build an infrastructure in space and radically decrease the launch costs. There can be hundreds of thousands of space tourists flying each year, creating a giant market. Through this infrastructure, other commercial ventures will also be possible. Space will finally be opened up for business.

The thesis has two objectives. The first objective is to try to discern what importance space tourism may have for space commercialization. The second objective is to provide a detailed overview of the space tourism field. In order to fulfill the objectives, extensive research was conducted on space tourism. This was done through material available at the host institution as well as what could be found on the Internet. Interviews were also conducted with leading people in the space tourism community.

The main conclusions:

  • There is a great yearning among the public to travel in space. All market surveys point to this. People are prepared to pay a relatively substantial amount to do it.
  • Space tourism is the only activity that can support a high number of flights, which is essential to bringing costs down. There is practically no saturation limit to tourism, just look at the growth of theme parks and cruise lines all over the world.
  • Chances are good that within the next 25 years a remarkable sequence of events will take place in space. We will witness the birth of a completely new industry. An infrastructure between Earth and space will be constructed. There will be regular passenger tours to space and back, carrying mainly tourists.
  • As soon as the infrastructure is in place, a number of orbital facilities will rapidly be constructed.
  • Because the new launch vehicles will be carrying passengers on regular trips, they will be much safer and quicker to handle than the launch vehicles of today.
  • All commercial space activities are tied to the cost of going to orbit. Space tourism is a way to bring down the current high costs.
  • Thanks to the infrastructure established to do space tourism, other commercial space ventures will also have an improved chance of getting going. Space tourism will be the main market driver for this.
  • The industry will become more aware of space as a place to do business because of space tourism. New thoughts and ideas will come up on how to use space.

Résumé

Le tourisme de l'espace est une extension normale de l'industrie mondiale du tourisme d'aujourd'hui. Au lieu de faire le tour du monde, les touristes vont dans l'espace. N'importe qui pourra acheter un billet. Aucune formation d'astronaute n'est nécessaire. Ceci ne s'est pas encore produit, mais aujourd'hui beaucoup d'activités ont lieu dans le monde pour que celà devienne réel.

Le tourisme de l'espace peut être le lien manquant du voyage dans l'espace que nous avions essayé de découvrir pendant tant d'années. Avec l'aide du tourisme de l'espace, nous pouvons établir une infrastructure dans l'espace et radicalement diminuer les coûts de lancement. Il peut y avoir des centaines de milliers de touristes de l'espace volant tous les ans, créant un marché géant. Par cette infrastructure, d'autres entreprises commerciales seront également possibles. L'espace sera finalement ouvert au monde des affaires.

La thèse a deux objectifs. Le premier objectif est d'essayer de discerner si le tourisme de l'espace pourra être significatif pour la commercialisation de l'espace. Le deuxième objectif est de fournir une vue d'ensemble détaillée du domaine de tourisme de l'espace.

Afin d'aboutir aux objectifs, une importante recherche a été menée sur le tourisme de l'espace. Ceci a été fait avec le matériel disponible à l'institution aussi bien que ce qui pouvait être trouvé sur Internet. Des interviews ont également été conduites auprès des principales personnes de la communauté de tourisme de l'espace.

Les conclusions principales:

  • Il y a un grand désir parmi le public de voyager dans l'espace. Toutes les études de marché evoluent vers ceci. Les gens sont disposés à payer un montant relativement substantiel pour le faire.
  • Le tourisme de l'espace est la seule activité qui peut supporter un nombre élevé de vols; ce qui est essentiel à la reduction des coûts. Il n'y a pratiquement aucune limite de saturation au tourisme, d'après la croissance des parcs à thème et des lignes de croisière partout dans le monde.
  • Il est très probable que dans les 25 années à venir une séquence d'opérations remarquable aura lieu dans l'espace. Nous verrons la naissance d'une industrie complètement nouvelle. Une infrastructure entre la terre et l'espace sera construite. Il y aura des excursions régulières de passagers entre l'espace et la terre, portant principalement des touristes.
  • Dès que l'infrastructure sera en place, un certain nombre de stations orbitales seront rapidement construits.
  • Puisque les nouveaux véhicules de lancement vont transporter des passagers lors de voyages réguliers, ils seront beaucoup plus sûr et rapide à manipuler que les véhicules de lancement qui existe aujourd'hui.
  • Toutes les activités commerciales de l'espace sont attachées au coût d'aller en orbite. Le tourisme de l'espace est une manière de réduire les coûts élevés actuels.
  • Grâce à l'infrastructure créé pour ce tourisme de l'espace, d'autres entreprises commerciales auront la possibilité d'aller dans l'espace. Le tourisme de l'espace sera le principal gestionnaire du marché pour ceci.
  • L'industrie se rendra compte que l'espace est un moyen de faire des affaires en raison du tourisme de l'espace. De nouvelles pensées et idées seront soulevées sur la fa&cc=edil;on d'utiliser l'espace.

Acronyms

DC-X
Delta Clipper Experimental
EAA
Experimental Aircraft Association
ET
External Tank
FAA
Federal Aviation Administration
ISS
International Space Station
JRS
Japanese Rocket Society
LB
pound, 1 pound = 0.454 kilograms
LEO
Low Earth Orbit
NASA
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
OCST
Office of Commercial Space Transportation
RLV
Reusable Launch Vehicle
SSTO
Single Stage To Orbit
STA
Space Transportation Association
STS
Space Tourism Society
TBS
Tokyo Broadcasting System
VTOL
Vertical Take Off and Landing

Introduction

What is space tourism? Other names for it are 'Public space travel' and 'Personal space flight' and that is exactly what it is: you and me going to space to do some sight-seeing. No astronaut training is needed. All you have to do is go to a travel agency and book a ticket, just like you would for a normal airline flight. We are not quite there yet, but a lot of things are happening that will make it come true sooner than you may think.

Space tourism is a natural extension of today's worldwide tourism industry. Instead of traveling around the world, tourists go to space. This may sound like science fiction, but is taken very seriously by the commercial space industry as well as the US government. Even several national space agencies have acknowledged that space tourism is something worth keeping an eye on.

So why bother about space tourism? What is special about it?

For more than 40 years, ever since the space age started, people have been waiting for the day when space is finally opened up on a large scale to mankind. There have been numerous suggestions on how to make this a reality. Early on, many thought that the governmental space programs would take us to the planets and stars. This did not happen, as we see today. Other ideas came up for putting industries in space, manufacturing new medicines and materials for giant world markets. Solar power satellites bringing endless amounts of electricity to the Earth was another suggestion. All of these ideas failed for similar reasons, the main one being the high cost of putting something into orbit. Companies could not convince investors that there was a market large enough to cover the huge launch expenses.

The number of commercial space launches in a year is between 70 and 80. Compare this to the 70 or 80 take-offs by commercial aircraft every fraction of a second all around the world. It is obvious that the way the space industry works today makes it very difficult for any commercial venture in space to yield a profit.

This is where all the excitement about space tourism comes in. Space tourism is the only space activity which has the potential to provide a high number of flights on a regular basis. This is essential to radically bringing launch costs down. Tourism has practically no saturation limits, just look at the growth of theme parks and cruise lines all over the world. In other words, people are the payload of the future.

Space tourism may be the missing link of space travel that we have been trying to discover for so many years. With the help of space tourism, we can build an infrastructure in space. There can be hundreds of thousands of space tourists flying each year, creating a giant market. Through this infrastructure, other commercial ventures will also be possible. Space will finally be a place where it pays off to do business.

At the moment, no space flights are available to the public, but the space tourism industry has already taken off, with travel agencies offering parabolic flights where you can experience weightlessness, space camps where you can train like the astronauts, visits to space facilities and other space related activities. The adventure tourism industry is also very much alive, with people paying substantial amounts to get an uncommon holiday experience. These are the kind of people that may be interested in space tourism during its early phases.

A number of private companies around the world are currently developing new, reusable launch vehicles, which hope to lower launch costs enough to make it possible for the public to buy trips to space. This development is spurred on by the X PRIZE competition.

Several organizations are doing their part to promote space tourism and study the problems around it.

The variety of potential tourist activities in space is as large as the Universe itself. In the early years, though, the focus will be on sub-orbital flights, short trips to orbit, simple orbital hotels and after that trips to the Moon, perhaps with a stay at a lunar hotel. This is also as far as this thesis goes.

Objectives

The thesis has two main objectives:

  • The first objective is to try to discern what importance space tourism may have for space commercialization. With commercialization I mean people making money in space. This involves actually doing activities in space, such as space manufacturing and solar satellite power production. The predictions made are partly based on the knowledge I received while doing the research for the first section, but the main source of information was the interviews I conducted with leading people in the space tourism community.
  • The second is to provide a detailed overview of the space tourism field. This was done by conducting extensive research, the sources being the published material, books, brochures and video cassettes that were available at the host institution, as well as the Internet. Where there was little material available, I attempted to directly contact the people responsible.

Methodology for interviews

Together with my mentor, I worked out a set of questions, which would give a good view of space tourism, and the factors involved in making it come true.

My mentor also advised me on people to interview. The aim was to really get an inside view of what is happening in the field today and what we can expect in the near future. The people selected for interviewing are all contributing to the birth of this new industry in various ways.

All interviews were conducted over the telephone, with the exception of 3, which were done via email. When all the interviews had been completed, I did a thorough analysis of the answers.

The answers to quantitative questions, such as When will the price be $1000/kg to LEO, was put into an MS-Excel spreadsheet to produce a graph where one can more easily study the results and see the most likely prediction.

The essay-type questions, such as What are your visions on space tourism for the next 25 years, are presented as a summary of all the individual replies, with the more common opinions being listed first and other comments of interest following after that. If answers were contradictory between different interviews this is remarked upon. Sometimes a quote or two was added at the end.

The story so far

Early aviation

In trying to predict what the early space tourism industry will look like, studying the early aviation industry is helpful. Many of the phenomena that occurred then will come back when tourists start going to space, albeit at a higher level when it comes to cost and safety regulations. The fascination and thrills created by the early aviators will most certainly remain the same, however, as the public starts journeying into outer space.

Barnstormers

The first space tourism trips will most likely be so called sub-orbital jumps, where customers pay an initially high price to go on a quick ballistic flight in a spacecraft into space, get a few minutes of weightlessness and then return to Earth, without reaching orbit. These space "joyrides" are very similar to the airplane flights offered by the first barnstormers, which provided the first commercial market for aviation.

The concept of barnstormers existed already around 1910, but their major days of glory started in the early 1920s, just after World War I. In the USA, but also in countries such as the United Kingdom and France, a lot of pilots had been drafted to take part in the war. When they returned home they were dismayed at the thought of going back to ordinary jobs or school. Aviation and piloting had gotten a hold of them and they were not prepared to let go. Instead, many of them bought war-surplus planes and started touring the country from town to town, offering people rides. The interest in these flights was enormous at first, some people paying up to a week's salary to be able to take a ride lasting only a few minutes. The total amount of customers can be counted in millions. It also served to create jobs for pilots who came after World War I. One of the most famous of those pilots was Charles A. Lindbergh.

After a few years, as the novelty started to wear thin, the pilots begun attracting customers by putting on air shows, in which they performed death-defying stunt tricks in the air. This could involve climbing out on to the wing and standing up, jumping from one plane to the other or fighting each other on the wing with the loser falling to the ground, releasing his parachute at the very last moment.

All this gave enormous PR to aviation that no regular advertising campaign could possibly have matched. However, it was a very risky business. A lot of good pilots were killed during flights. Eventually, many pilots and aircraft builders started opposing the barnstormers' activities, believing that they were giving aviation a bad name by drawing attention to its risks instead of emphasizing the safety, increasing reliability and usefulness of aircraft.

In 1926, the Air Commerce Act finally put an end to unlicensed barnstorming in the USA. From now on pilots and mechanics would be licensed, aircraft would have to be registered and certified and air traffic regulated. However, in the years that followed more organized barnstorming in the form of flying circuses took over. Speed races were also arranged and went on right up to the start of World War II. [1]

Russia

The Russian space station MIR is open for tourists, although the conditions are quite hard. First of all, the cost is about $10 million and up. You must also speak fluent Russian or agree to learn it as well as spend a little more than a year training in Star City outside Moscow. Finally, the physical examinations are tough and must be passed. This hardly qualifies for a relaxing vacation and it is definitely not available to the general public. [2] Still, space agencies from all over the world have used this opportunity to give their astronauts proper training.

Tourists on MIR

Of all the people that have gone into space, only two of them have been private citizens with no relation to the space industry whatsoever. Both flights were to MIR:

  • Japanese journalist

    In December 1990, the Japanese journalist Toyohiro Akiyama, 48, was sent to MIR on a one week mission. This made him the first journalist astronaut in the world. The trip was made in order to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Akiyama's employer, the Japanese TV station Tokyo Broadcasting System, TBS. The cost for the flight was $12 million. The viewer ratings were good all through the week. Nowadays, Akiyama is still employed at the TBS. He also tours across Japan, giving speeches on his space experience. [3] [4] [5] [6]

  • British chemist

    The first British astronaut, Helen Sharman, a 27-year-old British chemist working at the Mars candy company, flew to MIR in May 1991 for an eight-day trip. She did this after winning an "astronauts wanted" contest held by Moscow Narodny Bank, London. Sharman was picked among 13,000 competitors. The price for the flight was $10 million. [7] [8] Due to commercial mismanagement, the project's underwriters paid most of the cost. [9]

USA

No real tourists have flown on the space shuttle, although people who were not part of the astronaut corps have taken trips. This includes many of the mission specialists, two of them being US Congressmen who went on flights in the early 1980s, as Congressional observers. They also took part in medical experiments.

Teacher in space

However, NASA once had serious plans to give ordinary people a chance to ride on the Shuttle. On December 23, 1983, the US Government Federal Register published an announcement from NASA that it would select private individuals, provided that they were fit and healthy enough, as passengers on the space shuttle. This was called "The space flight participant program" and was the start of the "Teacher in space" and "Journalist in space" programs.

11,000 applications were turned in. On August 27, 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced that Sharon Christa McAuliffe would fly on an upcoming Shuttle mission.

Little more than a year later, on October 24, 1985, NASA also said that they would fly a journalist into space. NASA had sought and received applications from candidates who felt that they could use their journalistic background to communicate the experience of space travel to ordinary citizens.

Although these programs were not strictly tourist trips, they emphasized the idea that space should be open to anyone and not just an area for scientists and explorers. Eventually, an artist was supposed to be sent into space.

In January 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off, effectively ending the program of citizen participation in space flight.[10] [11] [12]

Tickets to space!

Hayden Planetarium

In 1951, the Hayden Planetarium published an order form in their magazines and books to be completed by people who wanted to travel into space (Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond). More than 400,000 responses have been collected over the years since then. [13]

Pan Am

In 1969, following the success of the Apollo missions, Pan Am airlines began taking ticket reservations for a shuttle to the moon. The tickets were unexpectedly popular. 90,000 reservations were accepted.

The only problem was that there was no trip itself. The tickets were valid for seats on the first flight to become available, but no such flights have turned up yet. [14] The certificates are now valuable collectors' items.

Society Expeditions

Another company offering flights to space was the adventure tourism company Society Expeditions, based in Seattle, Washington, USA. In 1985, they started " Project Space Voyage", offering short trips to low Earth orbit for $50,000. The flight would orbit the Earth about 5-8 times and take approximately 8-12 hours. The vehicle was supposed to be the Phoenix-E, a Vertical Take Off and Landing ( VTOL) single booster craft carrying 20 passengers and built by Pacific American Launch Systems. Gary Hudson, nowadays the president of Rotary Rocket Company, was the designer of the craft. The launches were to start in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World. [15] [16] [17]

Several hundred people deposited $5000 in the USA, Europe and Japan for a ticket. However, the company failed to raise enough money to develop the Phoenix-E and the program was canceled. [18] The deposits were returned. [19]

Space Travel Company

Robert Citron, one of the founders of Kistler Aerospace, founded Space Travel. [20] He was proposing to offer passengers a ride on the Shuttle for $1 million per seat. Passengers would be carried in a part of the shuttle cargo bay converted to a pressurized habitable module, constructed to accommodate passengers. However, NASA rejected the idea, having concluded that it was unsafe to carry people outside the crew compartment during launches and landings.

Development of the module, called Spacehab, went on, but not for the purpose of carrying passengers but to provide lockers for microgravity experiments. [21]

Where to go in space as a tourist and how

There are an endless number of ways to do space tourism. Once the industry gets started the only limit will be the human imagination. Currently, a few types of trips are discussed more often than others and are described briefly below.

Virtual space trip

With the use of modern technology, space trips can be simulated very realistically. The Space Tourism Society is currently working on a simulation of a 24-hour cruise in Earth orbit. The computer would make up the entire flight and the customer would get a good preview of what the real trip might be like. The only thing missing would be weightlessness. [22]

Sight-seeing via telepresence

Performing space tourism without actually being there, via remote controlled robots, may be one way of seeing more exotic locations in space before the technology has evolved enough for people to go there in person.

LunaCorp, based in Arlington, Virginia, USA, plan to send a rover to the Moon in 2002. Sponsors of the project will be allowed to conduct their own excursion with the rover around the Peary crater, where the Lunar Prospector probe found water in 1998. Cameras on the rover will send back pictures to the driver. [23] Subsequent rovers may be controlled from amusement parks, where ordinary people get a chance to take a drive and have a look at the old Apollo sites. [24]

"Joyrides"

The first space tourism trips will be simple rides where the tourists stay inside the craft all the time, watching the Earth and playing in Zero-G. There are two different phases that these rides will go through.

Sub-orbital jump

If a spacecraft makes a ballistic trip to an altitude of 100 km (62 miles), basically flying in a wide arc from the ground and back down again, it is called a sub-orbital jump. The shape of the trajectory is the same as if one throws a stone up in the air. It is also the flight path used by sounding rockets.

The speed required to reach a height of 100 km is about 1 km/s. At the top of the arc, there will be a few minutes of weightlessness and a grandiose view of the Earth.

Orbital trip

To reach Low Earth Orbit ( LEO) you need a speed of 7.8 km/s. Once the craft is in orbit it will circle the Earth once every 90 minutes. 2-3 orbits will probably give tourists enough time to have a proper look at the Earth and try out weightlessness.

Space hotel

When orbital trips are available, tourists will want to stay for a while. Some kind of facility will be needed. Using the ISS, perhaps with an extension, could be a way of getting an early tourist facility up in orbit.

A space hotel will also provide a platform for further ventures into outer space, such as being the home base for a Moon vehicle.

Some companies have already given quite a lot of thought to orbital facilities and hotels:

Shimizu

The Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese construction company founded in 1804, has what is maybe the most famous concept for a space hotel. They plan to have a hotel in orbit by the year 2020. The hotel will be orbiting 450 km (279 miles) above the surface of the Earth. There will be 64 rooms having a gravity level of 0.7 G in order to facilitate the use of showers and rest rooms. To produce this the hotel will be spinning slowly. However, there will be areas of the hotel that are completely free of gravity, to enable tourists to play and have fun. [25]

The structure is 240 m long. At one end is the platform area, where tourists arrive and depart. An elevator takes them up the public area, composed of several modules such as a lobby, a restaurant and an amusement hall (for playing in weightlessness). The guest room area is a ring further up the elevator. The ring is connected to the main structure but rotates separately. Finally, there is the energy support area, where solar panels and batteries provide energy for the various facilities. [26]

Using the external tank of the Space Shuttle

A number of suggestions have been made on how to use the external tank ( ET) of the Space Shuttle for habitats and other orbital facilities. Using the ET could be a way of getting an early space hotel.

Barron Hilton, then the Chairman of the US company Hilton Hotels, made a famous speech at a space conference in 1967 about future Hilton hotels in orbit and on the Moon. Hilton also had their name on a space hotel in the movie 2001-A Space Odyssey, released in 1968. [27] The company paid to be part of the film.

Hilton announced in 1999 that they will be the first sponsors of a planned space hotel, designed by the Space Island Group and made out of ETs, forming a ring. British Airways is also said to be interested. The estimated cost would be $6 - $12 billion. This is compared to the cost of the International Space Station, which is around $40 billion. The hotel would take 6 years to build. A new generation of space vehicles would be needed to transport passengers up to the station. Author Arthur C. Clarke is also a backer of the project and was the one who contacted Hilton. [28]

Lunar flyby

Taking a trip around the Moon, without landing, may seem to be a daunting step, but the Apollo program did it 30 years ago. In late December 1968, Apollo 8 made just such a trip, in preparation for later landings.

Watching the Moon up close, maybe through a strong pair of binoculars would be the main activity. Seeing the Earth rise beyond the Moon would be another experience destined never to be forgotten.

Lunar hotel

As with orbital trips around the Earth, when there are regular trips around the Moon the need to actually go down to the surface and take a walk will be large enough to warrant the construction of lunar facilities. Even here, there are already plans made by companies.

Lunar Hilton

Hilton International, the large multinational hotel chain, has been working on plans for a lunar hotel ever since water was discovered on the Moon in 1998.

The hotel would be a 325 meter-high complex with 5000 rooms. Power would come from two huge solar panels and there would also be a beach with a sea and a working farm. Drinking water would be pumped up from the ice reserves by the poles and would also be used to fill the sea. There would be a restaurant, a medical center, a church and even a school. High-speed lifts would take guests between floors. Lunar buses would take tourists on excursions outside the hotel.

Hilton is working closely with experts at NASA on the project. They also hope to form some kind of partnership to ferry guests to the hotel. [29]

"...where there are travelers there must be Hiltons." as Barron Hilton proclaimed in his 1967 speech. [30]

What to do as a space tourist

What will the tourists do once they are out there? The surveys that have been made show that the potential space tourists have very clearly defined ideas of what activities they wish to occupy themselves with.

Earth sight-seeing

"...the view of Earth from low orbit is literally breathtaking, both by night when the globe flickers with lightning storms and polar aurorae, and by day when the ever-changing terrain below is dazzlingly clear." [31]

Market research has shown that what most people want to do in space is watch the Earth. [32] There seems to be an endless fascination in seeing the different continents roll by, with no borders visible between countries.

Photographs and films of the view is an impressive thing in itself, but to see it for real is a remarkable experience. Astronauts in Skylab spent hours on end watching the Earth whenever possible. [33]

The views of Earth available will be determined in detail by the space vehicle's ground track. Flights could be named after the main sightseeing targets, for example "Polar Flight" and "Big City Lights". Passing over oceans may tend to be quite dull, so care should be taken to minimize that.

Different seasons will also provide different views. This may be an incentive for customers to come back, in order to get a view of their home during different times of the year. It may also cause a variance in demand of flights, as weather conditions tend to be more severe at certain times of the year, with cloudiness blocking a lot of the view.

Watching space

Without the atmosphere in between, the stars are much brighter and clearer when viewed. Astronomical observations will be popular. The best time to do this is when the vehicle passes through the Earth's shadow, during the nighttime part of the orbit.

Eating

Since the trips will be fairly short in the early space tourism stages, meals will not really be needed. However, the passengers will want to try eating and drinking in a Zero-G environment, so food should be provided. The passengers might also want to play with the food, like drinking from a ball of water floating in the air, as well as taking pictures to remember the event.[34]

Playing

Floating in weightlessness is guaranteed to be something the tourists will want to try. Films of astronauts on the Space Shuttle often show them playing around, doing all sorts of acrobatics. This can take place even on the early rides, where the tourists stay inside the launch vehicle.

Once there are hotels, more advanced activities can take place. One idea is to have a Zero-G swimming pool. This would be a large spherical mass of water floating around inside the orbiting spacecraft. Body movements will still be effective in moving through the water or towards the surface, but the body does not float naturally up to the surface, so some kind of emergency air equipment may be necessary to wear.

There could also be an artificial gravity swimming pool, where people would swim around in a rotating cylinder. A swimmer would see other people swimming in the ceiling. Since the gravity level would be lower than on Earth, water activities would be very relaxing. Water polo, for instance, could be enjoyed by more people.

Sports would take on an extra dimension in space. 3-D soccer, for instance, would require completely new tactics.

Flying using simple wings attached to the arms will be possible. Races could take place, both speed and slalom, or people could just soar around as they wished. [35] On the Moon, a crater could be covered and filled with air to let people fly around inside.

Finally, there is of course the so-called "rendezvous and docking" activity which is so popular on honeymoons, and which would definitely take on a new dimension in space.

Space walk

According to the market survey made in Japan, USA and Germany (see the Market Surveys section) taking a space walk was the second most popular thing people wanted to do in space. Although performing a space walk will probably not be available in the early phases of space tourism, space walks are being performed routinely by trained astronauts today and there is nothing that says that it can not be implemented for future tourists as well.

Recognition

Being able to talk about the trip afterwards may be just as important as taking the trip itself. Getting some kind of recognition after having made the trip is guaranteed to be appreciated. By going into space the space tourists qualify for astronaut wings. These could be given out at a ceremony after the tourists are safely back on Earth.

Adventure tourism: a customer base for space tourism

Space tourism will not be anything revolutionary in the tourism industry, except for the fact that it represents a completely new place to go. Adventure tourism on Earth is in itself already a fairly well established industry. It seems reasonable to assume that the people who take part in these more extreme forms of tourism will also be the ones who will embrace space tourism at its earlier stages. The adventure tourism industry therefore warrants a closer look in order to get an early perspective on space tourism. A few of the better-known companies offering adventure tourism are described below. All prices are for the 1999/2000 season.

Incredible Adventures

Incredible Adventures in Sarasota, Florida, USA is into a number of different adventure tourism programs. Apart from offering space tourism (see the Space-related tourism already available section) it offers things such as to:

  • Be the pilot of a real jet fighter aircraft, taking off from Cape Town, 6 days, $6,500-$22,000, depending on the number of jets one wishes to try
  • Take part in an army boot camp, called Covert Ops, 3 days, $2,995-$3,795, depending on the date
  • Go around the world by rail in 40 days, $13,250
  • Drive a truck in a truck racing event, half a day, $495, or 1 day, $795
  • Take a trip under the Arctic ice in a submarine, visiting wrecks of ancient ships. A cooperation with Deep Sea Voyages, 8 days, $9,980 [36]

Quark Expeditions

This British company operates Russian nuclear icebreakers, taking tourists on trips to the Arctic and Antarctic. Some examples are:

  • Antarctica, 25 nights, $11,995 - $28,980, depending on the type of room and date of departure
  • Circumnavigation of the Arctic, 2 months, $27,390 - $50,650, depending on the type of room wanted. [37]
Society Expeditions

Located in Seattle, Washington, USA, this company was one of the first to offer space tourism in the mid 1980s. For reasons explained in the The story so far section that venture failed to get off the ground. Today, Society Expeditions offers small ship adventure cruises to Antarctica, Alaska and the South Pacific. The focus lies on the wildlife, natural history and culture of each region. Activities such as bird watching and wildlife viewing are a central part of the journeys. A team of experts in various fields related to the area gives lectures onboard along with guided field studies. [38]

Zegrahm Expeditions / Deep Sea Voyages

Zegrahm Expeditions in Seattle, Washington, USA offers trips all around the world. Examples include:

  • Galapagos Islands, 10 days, $3,690 and up
  • Madagascar, 18 days, $6,350
  • viewing ancient cities by aircraft, 23 days, $28,950 [39]

Deep Sea Voyages, a division of Zegrahms, offers submarine trips. Examples are Undersea volcanoes of the Azores and a soon-to-be 10-day trip to the wreck of the Titanic for $35,500. [40]

Space-related tourism already available

A few travel agencies are already offering space-related tourism. A brief description of the major ones follows. Many companies offer similar activities, for example parabolic flights and flights to high altitude with the MIG-25 Foxbat. Those trips are described fully under Space Adventures and then only referenced to under the rest of the companies. All prices are for the 1999/2000 season.

Space Adventures is based in Arlington, Virginia, USA and run by President Mike McDowell, the founder of Quark Expeditions. The company offers a program called Steps to space. The ultimate goal of this is to offer trips into space, i e to become a true space travel agency. While waiting for that to become a possibility, tourists may experience different levels of Earth based space tourism. These steps are:

  • Terrestrial Tours

    The tours here include:

    • visiting various historical sites around the world where ancient astronomers did their work, 3 days, $919 or 5 days, $1,499
    • a seminar where you build your own model rocket, 1 day, $279
    • a visit of Russia's most famous space sites, 9 days, $5,005
    • viewing a Shuttle launch, 3 days, $750
  • Zero Gravity Flights

    Tourists take part in a parabolic flight aboard a jet aircraft, either in France or Russia. Such a flight gives several periods of weightlessness, each lasting about 20-30 seconds. 4 days, $4,980

  • Journey To The Edge Of Space

    This is a flight in the Russian MIG-25 Foxbat aircraft, taking place in Russia. The plane reaches an altitude of more than 80,000 ft at 2.5 times the speed of sound. At this altitude, the curvature of the Earth is visible and the sky above is black. 2 days, $11,900

    Other aircraft are available as well.

  • Sub-Orbital Space Flights

    Expected to begin in 2002-2003, this program will offer sub-orbital flights into space, using any of a number of vehicles now under construction. $90,000.[41]

  • Zegrahm Space Voyages

    Scott Fitzsimmons runs this division of Zegrahm Expeditions, an established adventure tourism agency. Space Voyages, a Seattle, Washington, USA based company, plans to begin offering sub-orbital flights in the later part of 2002. This will be realized through a cooperation with Vela Technology Development, Inc., an aerospace company who is building the spacecraft. The price will be $98,000.[42]

  • Space Tours

    This company is run by Hartmut Muller and Augustinus Boots and is located in Syke, Germany. It has a wide range of space related activities on offer. Tourists may:

    • Take part in a space camp in Belgium, training like the European Space Agency astronauts.
    • Go on parabolic flights in Bordeaux, France.
    • Visit aerospace related sites in Germany, Holland, Belgium and the USA.
    • Do a flight simulator trip in the Lufthansa training facility in Germany.

    Space Tours also organizes and hosts the International Symposium on Space Tourism. The second conference was held April 21-23, 1999 in Bremen, Germany. [43]

  • Spacetopia

    This company is aimed primarily at the Japanese market. It offers parabolic flights in Russia as well as flights to the edge of space on the Russia MIG-25 Foxbat. It also has an adventure tourism program, in which you can take a trip in a submarine to watch the wreck of the Titanic.

    Future plans include offering sub-orbital flights and Earth based tourism similar to Space Adventures' Terrestrial Tours.

    Rikko Wakamatsu and Patrick Collins, who also operates the space tourism web site Spacefuture.com, manage the company. [44]

  • Incredible Adventures

    This company, in Sarasota, Florida, USA, offers a wide range of extreme adventure tourism activities. The space related ones include parabolic flights in Russia as well as flying with the MIG-25 Foxbat. Incredible Adventures has also teamed up with Zegrahm and will be offering their sub-orbital flights when they get going. [45]

  • Interglobal Space Lines

    Rand Simberg runs Interglobal, based in Jackson, Wyoming, USA. It offers two space courses involving parabolic flights, taking place in the USA.

    • Introduction To Weightlessness, $1,950
      This gives a chance to try out weightlessness. Learning stability and mobility in a Zero-G environment are emphasized.
    • Shirtsleeve Operations in Weightlessness, $2,950

    Here the participants learn how to design weightless systems, such as crew aids and work stations, through lectures as well as the actual parabolic flight. [46]

  • The People's Republic of China

    USA, Europe, Russia and Japan are all involved in the space tourism industry, as seen above. China, one of the 5 major space faring countries in the world, so far has no officially declared space tourism programs.

    However, according to R Gao, Deputy General Manager of the Space Division at China Great Wall Industry Corporation, the company in charge of the Long March rocket launches, a few travel agencies are organizing tours to the space museum in Beijing, space manufacturing and testing facilities, launch sites etc.

    The space interest in China is large. Before a launch of the Long March rocket, some people drive all the way to the remotely located launch site, or go there by airplane or train, just to visit the launch.

    The going-on manned space program and the result of that could boost the interest of some pioneers in space-oriented tourism in China. The realization of space tourism will need strong and long-term financial support, so space tourism in China is seen as being at least twenty years into the future. [47]

Supportive non-profit organizations

Non-profit organizations are an important tool in spreading the message about space tourism to the public. A few of the space-related organizations in the world are mentioned continually when the space tourism issue is discussed and therefore warrant a closer look.

Japanese Rocket Society

The JRS was formed in 1956 by Japanese rocket pioneers in order to conduct an experimental study of rockoons, rockets being launched from underneath balloons, for sounding the atmosphere at high altitudes. Since then, the activities have expanded to cover a number of related subjects. [48]

In 1993, JRS initiated a Space Tourism Study Program. The goal of this program is to widely research all aspects of space tourism. A number of papers and reports have been published. [49]

In 1995, the first phase of the program was completed. This was the design of the Kankoh-Maru, a 50-passenger, VTOL vehicle constructed specifically to take tourists out into low Earth orbit.

Kankoh-Maru

A number of Japanese industrial companies were involved in the project, e g Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Nissan Motor Company and All Nippon Airways.

After this, a Business Research Committee was established in order to discuss the business aspects of the Kankoh-Maru project. It was quickly realized that before any manufacturing of the vehicle could take place, the potential operating companies needed understanding of many additional issues concerning the operation of the craft, so further studies are taking place. [50]

At the end of 1998, the program was focusing on regulatory matters. [51]

The goal of the Space Tourism Society is

To conduct research, build public desire, and acquire the financial and political power to make space tourism available to as many people as possible as soon as possible.

STS believes that space tourism is the most logical way for private enterprise to go in order to expand humankind into space. It wants to stimulate a profitable and expanding space tourism industry.

The organization is modeled after the National Geographic Society. Major research will be performed and the findings promoted to the world public. The founder and executive president, John S. Spencer, is leading the work.

Currently, the STS is working on a 30-year plan. The focus lies on in-orbit activities, what the tourists do once they are up there, not on how to get there. This is mainly because STS does not believe that the main obstacles to space tourism are technical, but rather on the financial and marketing side. The plan talks of modeling the industry more after cruise lines than the hotel industry. [52] [53]

The STA is an interest organization for the space transportation industry. The name of the current President is Tom Rogers, who was one of the founders of the External Tank Corporation.

The goal of the STA is to encourage and promote commercial space transportation as well as the development of reusable launch vehicles. It does this by:

Developing and promoting standards and regulations that make operations easier for commercial space transportation, expendable and reusable, as well as space enterprises.

Keeping a database of space transportation materials, which may be accessed by STA members.

Educating the US government, business and the general public about commercial space transportation and its benefits.

Being in close contact with members of Congress, the White House and regulatory agencies and business interests engaged in expanding commercial space activities. [54]

In 1998, the STA released a study on space tourism together with NASA called General Public Space Travel and Tourism. The main conclusions of this study are:

  • The US national space policy should be modified to encourage the creation of a large general public space travel and tourism business.
  • Precursors to space tourism on the ground should be expanded.
  • People with a profession which may be related to future space tourism, such as hotel architects, theme park developers, airline and cruise ship operators, should start informing themselves of public space travel and tourism to see what their interests are therein.
  • A complete spectrum of people and businesses must be engaged, everything from financing to travel agencies. Especially small businesses and entrepreneurs should be encouraged.
  • Non-profit organizations should take part in the needed communications efforts.
  • Universities that give travel and tourism programs should begin considering space tourism.
  • The Federal government should cooperate closely with the private sector to reduce its initial technological, operational and market risk, which it has already done in aviation.
  • Government-sponsored research and development should focus on bringing launch costs down by a factor of 10-100 for high-safety, reliable and comfortable space vehicles.
  • The X-33 and X-34 programs should give specific attention to the prospects of general public space travel and tourism and so should private space transportation companies such as Rotary Rocket and others.
  • Experiencing space from inside the transportation vehicle itself will be enough for the initial business, however, to enable large-scale market expansion, orbital facilities will be needed. [55]

This report led to the establishment of a Space Travel and Tourism Division of the STA, which will go on working on space tourism issues.

X PRIZE Foundation

The X PRIZE Foundation is located in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. It is a non-profit organization inaugurated in 1996 and is arranging a competition called the X PRIZE.

The X PRIZE is a $10 million prize which has been put up in order to promote the creation of the first spaceships that will do sub-orbital space tourism. To win the prize, a privately funded organization or company must build their own space vehicle and fly it to an altitude of 100 km (62 miles) carrying at least 1 person, plus the equivalent mass of 2 people. Carrying 3 real people is of course preferred, but that may require passenger certification of the craft, the rules of which have not been completely worked out by the FAA yet.

In order to prove that the vehicle is reusable, the same craft has to make the same trip again within 2 weeks.

The X PRIZE is modeled after the Orteig prize, put up by hotel owner Raymond Orteig in the 1920s. He wanted to improve relations between USA and France, which were bad after World War I, and offered $25,000 to the first team who could fly non-stop between New York and Paris. Nine teams spent 16 times the purse of $25,000 in pursuit of the prize. By offering a prize instead of backing one particular team or technology Orteig automatically backed the winner.

Charles A. Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize in 1927. He was the least expected to win, since he chose to go with a single pilot/single engine approach, whereas the other teams often had up to three engines and two people in the cockpit. Lindbergh's flight changed the public's perception of aviation, leading the way to today's multibillion-dollar aviation industry. The X PRIZE Foundation hopes to accomplish a similar thing for space travel. History has shown the power of prizes to accelerate technological development.

A gathering of St. Louis businessmen called The Spirit of St. Louis backed Lindbergh. The X PRIZE foundation has a similar group of sponsors called The New Spirit of St. Louis.

Peter Diamandis is the founder and President of the X PRIZE Foundation. The day-to-day operations are managed by the Executive Director, Gregg Maryniak. 16 teams are currently registered, coming from North America, South America and Europe. The Foundation hopes to be able to give the prize away around 2001-2002. [56] [57]

Potential impediments to space tourism

As for any new industry, space tourism faces some potential impediments, which need to be resolved before the industry will get going. The more well known ones are listed here, along with suggestions for solutions.

Law, regulations and risks

A proper legal system is an essential part of all space activities. A number of new issues concerning space law are raised as private companies are entering space to do business. Suddenly the old treaties are inadequate and insufficient to deal with all the legal situations that may occur.

Today: International treaties

At the moment, all activities in space are conducted by nations. Even if it is a private company operating, the nation where the company is established still has full responsibility for what the company does. This is due to a number of international treaties, which were drafted during the 1960s and 1970s. These were meant to create some basic legal structure in a young and unpredictable governmental activity. At that time no one gave serious thought to the advent of commercial services or routine space travel. Under these agreements, virtually all international disputes are settled on an ad hoc basis between nations, rather than between the individual parties to a dispute. [58]

This treaty from 1967 is the main international agreement on space activities. It lays down the basic issues of space law, saying that space and all celestial bodies are free for use by all mankind. No one can make any territorial claims on for instance the Moon. The thought was that whenever situations arise which are not covered by this treaty, a new treaty would be negotiated and added to the legal regime of space. The new agreement should be in harmony with the Outer Space Treaty. [59]

The Liability Convention

This agreement says that governments are liable for damage caused by any launches from their territory. This is different from other transport industries, for instance shipping and air travel, where commercial law rules and liability for damage caused by an accident is carried by commercial insurance companies. [60]

The Liability treaty gives any government the obligation to license launches. This prevents people from launching freely, putting the public in potential danger.

Astronauts within the current space law have to be:

  • in an object located in space
  • conducting their activities for the benefit and in the interests of all countries
  • regarded as an envoy of mankind in outer space

This type of space traveler is covered by the Rescue Agreement. It provides immediate notification, search and rescue by all countries even if the astronauts in an accident, distress, emergency or unintended landing are on the high seas or in any other place not under the jurisdiction of any nation.

This is all well and fine as long as governments are handling the space activities, but the new wave of space tourists will confuse the terms somewhat. Tourists in general do not play a direct role for the benefit and in the interests of all countries. Instead, they go for the sake of personal pleasure. This may disqualify them as envoys of mankind, thus not being seen as real astronauts. [61]

It may seem improbable that space tourists in distress will be ignored by countries close by, simply because they are not proper astronauts. Most likely the treatment will still be the same. However, this illustrates the fact that the Rescue Agreement will need to be updated. There should be no argument about who is responsible if an emergency situation occurs.

Future: New commercial space laws

US Congressman Robert Walker has stated "Most of our laws and regulations governing space activity were written to make it easier for the government to function in space. Now we need to make it easier for the private sector to undertake space development". [62]

The US government is taking the coming wave of public space travel and the commercialization of space very seriously. The first sign of this was seen in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan created the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (OCST), which is now a part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA is a US governmental institution in charge of regulating and overseeing the aviation industry in the USA.

The Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Patricia Grace Smith, is the head of the OCST. [63] This office handles things such as:

  • commercial launch licensing
  • developing regulations and procedures for operations
  • developing technical standards
  • intergovernmental cooperation
  • connections with Congress
  • overseeing the development of new commercial launch ventures
  • working out passenger service standards

It also does assessments of launch vehicles, telling the owner the amount of insurance needed for a launch. If a rocket blows up during launch, it pays the difference between the actual cost of the accident and the amount the mandated insurance covers. In other words, the US government acts as an excess insurance carrier; it provides a layer on top of the required insurance. [64]

Another important step in simplifying commercial space transportation is the Commercial Space Act, which was passed in 1998. The main issue in this act is giving the FAA the authority to license the reentry of reusable launch vehicles. Previously, the FAA could only issue launch licenses. This was of course mainly due to the fact that rockets were expendable, they were launched but never reentered, so a license to land a rocket was never needed.

However, this act will directly affect the new reusable launch vehicles being manufactured, making it easier to permit them being launched from the United States.

The act also says that the US government should as far as possible buy its launches and scientific data from commercial actors. [65]

Manned reusable launch vehicle classification

A major issue is how to handle the classification of the new reusable launch vehicles. A lot of parallels can be seen in the aviation industry. Passenger-carrying aircraft must go through a certification process before they are allowed to carry fare-paying passengers or cargo. The FAA handles this certification. More than 1000 test flights are typically needed to gather enough statistics. The cost may be over $100 million and the process may run for over 3 years. If the space tourism industry would have to go through the same thing it would mean great economical difficulties which would probably put a stop to any start-up company before it even got off the ground.

For the space industry, one country could take it upon itself to make the procedure easy, like Liberia did for the shipping industry. This does not guarantee that the craft can actually fly out of another country than the one it is licensed in, but at least there will be one place from which to start. [66]

Accredited Passengers

There are, however, suggestions on how to allow launches from within the USA and other countries with similarly strict aviation regulations.

Compared to commercial passenger-carrying aircraft, the FAA has much more relaxed rules on privately owned, home-built and experimental aircraft. Provided that he or she has a license to fly it, a person with a private pilot's license may bring along another person in such an aircraft, if that person goes for free. Licensed flying instructors can, however, charge other people for flying-lessons, provided that the student is the owner of the experimental aircraft. [67]

This is the reason why P Diamandis and P Collins have proposed something called Accredited Passengers as a model for the first space tourists. Such a passenger will be exempt from certain FAA regulations that apply to normal, regular airline flights. These people may choose to undertake certain risks in return for a valuable and exciting experience. They should have enough experience of aviation and space-related matters, or be willing to obtain it through training, to be able to judge the risks they put themselves into. Having a good knowledge of the vehicle will also be essential. If all these demands are fulfilled, the person may buy a ticket on a space flight.

To be allowed to carry such passengers, the space carriage operator must have made at least two successful and consecutive flights, report all accidents and failures that occur, have approved operations, emergency and safety procedures and obey all other regulations that apply. [68]

The "Warsaw Convention" for space

The potential liability for accidents is a major obstacle to tourist flights in space. The threat of lawsuits is a sure way of scaring away investors. To take out a huge insurance will not help, since the cost of that has to be passed on to the customers, thus raising the price for tickets far beyond a reasonable level.

The airline industry once faced similar problems. When airlines started operating internationally, there was a need for some regulation in order to limit the air carrier liability, since flights in the early days of aviation was more risky than today.

The solution was an international agreement called the Warsaw Convention. This convention limited the liability for airlines, which encouraged operators to enter the market.

The Warsaw Convention helped getting a new industry started and made it economically feasible. Today, the ability to gauge risks is much higher, as there is a lot of experience from air travel, so the Warsaw Convention may seem somewhat outdated, but it did a lot of good in its time.

Space tourism will probably need a similar agreement, at least in the beginning in order to get the industry started. Either the Warsaw Convention could be modified for space travel or a completely new document written along similar lines. [69]

If there is no regulatory framework the uncertainty can actually be worse. Any agency can then claim regulatory authority and issue licenses even if they do not have the right to do so. The absence of regulations may also make investors afraid that any unknown future regulation may kill the business they are investing in. Some regulation in this case is better than none. [70]

Precedents

An important way of establishing laws for outer space is to make precedents, that is to actually go out and do something, thereby claiming the right to do it. An example of this is the flight of Sputnik 1 in 1957, which established the principle that spacecraft in orbit may fly over any nation, which is not allowed without permission if you are in an airplane. [71]

Another example is the sample returns from the Moon made by the American Apollo landings, which determined that once you pick something off the surface of an extraterrestrial body, it is yours.

Physical fitness

Flying into space takes very high speeds and may also demand high accelerations depending on the type of rocket used. The early astronauts were test pilots in excellent physical shape, because no one was sure of what they would experience. This is a picture of the astronaut that still lingers in people's minds.

The G forces experienced on a trip to orbit are not very difficult to handle if the person is lying down. It does not hurt, but feels more like having a baby lying on your chest, nor is it hard to breathe. 5 G is about the maximum a person can take standing up. Beyond that the blood pressure in the head is so low that there will be a shortage of oxygen supply to the brain.

Basically, anyone who can fly in an airplane or ride on a roller coaster will have no problems with Space Shuttle levels of acceleration, around 3 G. [72] The flight by 77 year-old US Senator John Glenn on the Space Shuttle in October 1998 effectively ended all doubts that anyone in sufficiently good health can go to space. [73]

Space sickness

Sometimes when astronauts are in space, they feel sick and may even vomit. This is called space sickness and is caused by the same reasons that people get sick while riding in a car or on a boat. A conflict arises between what the eyes are telling the brain and what the inner ear is telling the brain about the bodily position. Inside a ship you may not see that you are moving but your inner ear tells you that you are.

The reasons for space sickness and other similar illnesses are not fully understood. Nevertheless, it is believed that it can be treated to a sufficient level with some kind of motion sickness medicines. This may be enough for space tourists to enjoy their flight.

The reasons astronauts are sick on the space shuttle is mainly because the NASA scientists tell them not to take pills, so that they can do research on the sickness. [74]

Cost

Even though space tourism has the potential to radically decrease the cost of launching a payload into space, the price for a ticket will still be beyond the general public, at least in the early years.

In 1986, Patrick Collins and David Ashford, by analogy with commercial developments in the past, expected the demand for space tourism to evolve through a number of phases:

  • Phase 1 - Pioneer phase
    Price per trip - $1,000,000-$100,000

    The market would consist of very wealthy individuals with an interest in space. A high degree of comfort would not be necessary; neither would a long stay in orbit. Staying within the launch vehicle would be all right for the entire trip.

  • Phase 2 - Exclusive phase
    Price per trip - $100,000-$10,000

    People would now be able to go on a regular basis. The price is still very high, so only high-income groups could go. The quality of the service, comfort, food and entertainment would be more important and changes in marketing would therefore take place. As the price goes down, more exotic trips would be needed to be able to maintain a feeling of exclusivity for the part of the market that so demands.

  • Phase 3 - Mature phase
    Price per trip - $10,000-$2,000

    A significant proportion of the population would now be able to go. Things such as technological advances would have made this possible. Price competition would exist between different suppliers, making the market go on growing.

  • Phase 4 - Mass market phase
    Price per trip - $2,000 +

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