Could space tourism for the average American become a reality within the next fifteen years? Former astronaut Donald Thomas says “yes.”
In an interview with The Telegraph, Thomas told reporter, Chris Leadbeater, that tourism in space “is going to happen.”
“Virgin Galactic may be the first. Sub-orbital flights that go to about 85 miles high – for five minutes of zero gravity, and to show you the black sky and the curvature of the earth. I would guess they will be launching in the next two years. And then there are other companies, like SpaceX, which has been sending supplies to the International Space Station, and is due to start sending crews next year. Shortly after that, I would anticipate they will send paying customers as well.”
Currently, space tourism is reserved purely for the rich, costing anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.
For instance, for $75,000, World View Enterprises will put passengers in sub-orbital flight and then glide them back down to Earth. The experience should take about four hours, and beverages are served on the flight.
For $65 million, the Russians will fly a space tourist up to the International Space Station.
Thomas, however, believes that the price of traveling into space will be knocked down significantly in about ten years.
“I would think that, in a decade or so, you will see flights to space for $10,000 to $15,000. Space travel will be more in line with an exotic trip to Antarctica.”
Thomas admitted those prices would still be considered expensive, but also said they would be “within reach” and space tourism would not be “just for millionaires and billionaires.”
Affordable space tourism has been in the works for years, most notably from Virgin Group and its founder, Richard Branson.
In a 2013 interview with Business Insider, Branson shared Thomas’ optimism, hinting at affordable space tourism within the third decade of the new millennium.
The British business magnate predicted that the price for space tourism would go down significantly within his lifetime, so that “hundreds and thousands of people should be able to get into space.” He also predicted that, while space travel for the next ten years would be expensive, these expenses will help them drive prices down.
“I think the next ten years is going to be quite expensive, that will fund, you know, enable us then to bring the price down, you know, quite considerably over the years to come.”
Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson, believes the expense of current space tourism will drive down the cost of future space tourism (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images)
Branson did, however, say affordable space travel was contingent upon being able to build enough spaceships and mother ships.
Another British company, Bristol Spaceplanes, is also hoping to make affordable space travel a reality before the 2020’s are over. The company even says that its approach could lead to people visiting space hotels within the next fifteen years.
“Bristol Spaceplanes is in the lead promoting a straightforward way of slashing the cost of access to space. This is to build an airliner that can fly to orbit, to replace today’s missile-like launchers that can fly only once. With our approach, within 15 years many of you could afford a visit to a space hotel. The main obstacle is the power of traditional thinking.”
For now, space tourism is an activity few of us can enjoy.
Things may change, though, and they may change within the lifetime of most of the people reading this article.
[Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images]