Space tourism has long been on the wish-lists of multi-millionaires and wannabe young astronauts, running around the garden with tin foil taped to their heads alike, but its development has always seemed to be the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters and essay-induced daydreams.
But last week, Elon Musk, multi-billionaire and CEO of SpaceX – a company that “designs, manufactures and launches advanced spacecraft, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets” – announced that two customers had paid a ‘significant deposit’ towards spaces on a rocket mission that will fly them around the moon in 2018, marking one of the first real commitments to popular space travel, and vacations on Venus could soon be a reality.
According to Libby Jackson, Human Spaceflight and Microgravity Programme Manager at the UK Space Agency, regular space travel could be possible in “as little as three years time”.
Jackson was involved with Tim Peake’s flight to the International Space Station in 2015, and confirmed that the UK Government are keen to ensure that space travel is up and running as soon as possible, and the UK’s first spaceport is currently scheduled for a 2020 opening. Jackson confirmed that “a number of companies around the world are already taking bookings for their sub-orbital flights and expect to take fare-paying passengers into space in the coming years”.
Several billion-dollar companies are involved in this 21st century space race, however, it seems that that it will either be SpaceX, or Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic that will have the honour of sending the first non-astronauts into space.
Capsules will hold two or three passengers for any one trip, however, with the medical and food supplies necessary for the journey, the space could feel rather cramped, considering that travelling to the moon and back will take around a week. It goes without saying that space tourism may not be the best option if you’re looking for a cheap, romantic mini break. SpaceX have not confirmed how much they are charging for a seat to the stratosphere, but, Virgin Galactic have revealed that they will be charging £200,000 per person for a trip to the moon, a fee that must be paid in full before lift-off.
Having said that, if you’re lucky enough to win the lottery, there should be very little else stopping any hopeful spacemen. “What’s exciting is that anyone can go, as long as they’re physically fit”, says Tamela Maciel from Leicester’s National Space Centre. The age, profession and location of those who have registered an interest in going to space varies greatly. As long as you’re over ten years old and with a burning desire to go to space, then high above the world is your oyster….