Are we finally seeing the dawn of the age of space tourism? A little over twenty years ago, the Ansari XPRIZE sent a shot of adrenaline into the virtually nonexistent private space industry. From that first competition, several budding space companies were born, including Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin. These three companies (as well as others) have shown consistent progress in making going to space considerably cheaper and more accessible.
Once it was shown that it was possible to get people and materials to and from space inexpensively, a new idea started to pop up in nerd circles. That idea is space tourism, a concept that used to be relegated to just science fiction.
Okay, so technically it’s not just science fiction. There have been a few isolated cases of civilians paying exorbitant sums to spend a little time in space. And, while it’s not actually in space, there’s always a parabolic microgravity flight with someone like ZeroG, at the budget price of only $5,000 + 5% tax per person.
But that’s not what we want, is it? We want the queasy gut from a lack of gravity. We want to drift across the cabin like we’re frickin’ Superman. We want to watch the sun rise and set on our pale blue dot from the deep black. We want to actually be in space.
A New Era
Starting in 2022, you might actually be able to do that. Last year, Orion Span announced their forthcoming space station/luxury hotel Aurora. With a launch date in late 2021, Aurora will be a modular station in low-Earth-orbit at about 200 miles above the planet’s surface. Initially, the station will be pretty small, housing four paying guests and two crew members. However, as demand increases, additional capsule-like pods can be added on.
The company says that their guests will be treated to a 12-day stay that comes complete with interactive science experiments, views of both planetary polar auroras, livestreaming sessions and up to 16 sunrise/sunsets. Guests will first have to go through a condensed 3-month training program to be certified to go.
Eventually, Orion Span hopes to make additional sections of Aurora available for uses beyond space tourism, including research and space manufacturing.
So, this is the real deal, right, microgravity, rocket trip and all, right? Sure you’re literally stuck in a metal can in the void of space, but personally, that sounds like a helluva vacation. Beats Disneyland any day. I, for one, plan on signing up right away. Well, just as soon as I can scrape together the $9.5 million per person price tag.