Is space travel the next hot-tourist attraction?
Space, the next frontier, no longer a whimsical concept to science-fiction enthusiasts, but an exciting adventure for those eagerly awaiting the near future of interstellar travel. We are witnessing the beginning of space tourism. As the likes of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are pioneering rocketship technology. As well as Richard Branson’s private spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, and Frank Bunger’s company Orion Span who is working on, what I would call, a “space-cation”. We are witnessing the beginning of space travel on a private basis. Settlements on Mars, revisiting the moon, family weekend trips around the Earth, and possibly full-on vacation stay on a space cruise ship, are all possibilities.
Concepts from pop culture such as The Martian by Anthony Weir, The 5th Element, HBO’s new series Avenue 5, and the acclaimed Star Trek and Star Wars movies have stirred our imagination and creativity. And now, we are left to wonder what will happen in the real world? How will space travel be commercialized, and who will be the ones to witness our planet from an “outside” perspective?
When Virgin Galactic announced its astronautical plans, actor Leonardo DiCaprio was among the first customers to purchase a $250,000 ticket for the 90-minute planetary tour. Since then, 600 people have bought tickets (including Justin Bieber,) and 8,000 more have registered for when the next round of tickets are released.
While Virgin Galactic promises a relatively short experience among the cosmos, Frank Bunger, CEO of Orion Span, has another plan. Orion Span has been (at least conceptually) in the works creating the first “luxury-orbiting hotel,” Aurora Station. For the 12-day experience of a lifetime, this “space-cation” will cost its guests $9.5 million per person. Orion Span, citing its inspiration for the hotel to develop the “new era of commercial space,” it will come as no surprise when “vacation” will have a totally new meaning. Upon competition and full-functionality of Aurora Station, our perspective on space-stays will be fundamentally changed. A societal shift to the stars will become the next big thing.
As the commercialization of space travel continues to develop, it is clear by the hefty price tags that this new enterprise will be available only for the few who can afford it. Since the first commercial airplane ticket cost $400 in 1914 ($10,324.60 based on today’s dollar value) hopefully, once the space tourism industry is more established and part of our cultural experience, it may become cheaper for the average consumer to purchase a loop around the globe or a stay in the space hotel.
Until then, we just have to keep looking up to the sky and imagine.