Space tourism roundup – Mar.13.2019

A quick scan of the status of space tourism:

** Suborbital space tourism should finally get underway this year as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic expect to begin taking “spaceflight participants” to the edge of space and back after they complete the remaining test flights:

Jeff Bezos, when asked about the start of New Shepard commercial flights, says:

This year. This is the first time I’ve ever been saying “this year.” For a few years I’ve been saying “next year.”

The New Shepard will take up to 6 people to over 100 kilometers. The vehicle will be controlled autonomously with no pilots aboard.

George Whitesides wants participants to unbuckle and experience weightlessness as well as a marvelous view of the earth:

Such experiences, of course, don’t come cheap with the price tag at around US$250,000 per trip. From take-off to the return landing will take 90 minutes, and passengers are likely to be at zero gravity for just five minutes. “There will be a section of the flight when passengers will be able to unbuckle their seatbelts and float around, and people can look down on to planet Earth and out into space,” he adds.

The SpaceShipTwo rocketplane is operated by two pilots and can carry up to 6 passengers to an altitude over 90 kilometers.

** Orbital space tourism will resume soon. Visits to the ISS by paying customers were suspended nearly a decade ago due to the disappearance of spare seats in Russian Soyuz spacecraft. All the Soyuz seats were needed for transporting new crew members to the station following the end of the Space Shuttle program. Now with the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner about to start taking people to the ISS, there will be a several opportunities for paying customers to go to the station each year.

Space Adventures, which has arranged space tourism flights to the ISS for seven people, will resume its orbital space tourism business in 2021: Roscosmos and Space Adventures Sign Contract for Orbital Space Tourist Flight – Space Adventures

State Space Corporation “Roscosmos” and Space Adventures, Inc. signed a contract for the implementation of the short duration space flight of two spaceflight participants on board the same “Soyuz” spacecraft to the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The flight is scheduled to launch in late 2021.

Roscosmos and Space Adventures have been cooperating in space tourism since 2001, when the first space tourist – Dennis Tito – flew on orbit. In total, seven people have visited the space station in the frame of space tourism program with Charles Simonyi visiting the ISS twice.

“Over the last 18 years, our partnership has provided the opportunity for non-professionals to experience life in space. Our clients have spent in total close to three months in space and traveled over 36 million miles,” said Eric Anderson, Chairman and CEO of Space Adventures, Inc. “We look forward to continuing to work with Roscosmos in the pursuit of opening the space frontier to all.”

** Are space tourists astronauts or not? Soon, hundreds of tourists will go to space. What should we call them? | Ars Technica

Until now, it has been fairly easy to call men and women who have gone to space astronauts (or cosmonauts in Russia, and taikonauts in China). About 560 humans have gone to space, nearly all of them into orbit, and a lucky two dozen have gone beyond. Twelve have walked on the Moon.

In 2004, the private SpaceShipOne venture clouded the picture a little bit by making a private suborbital flight. The pilots, Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie, had not trained as government astronauts, so the US Federal Aviation Administration created a new designation for them—commercial astronauts. Since then, the five crew members of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity flights in December and February have also earned that designation. But the FAA will only recognize “crew,” not passengers.

For now, there remains no official word on what to call non-crew members. Are they astronauts, too? Space passengers? Astro-nots? In the hopes of finding a consensus, we put that precise question to the companies, some bonafide NASA astronauts, and some experts in the aerospace community.

** A space tourism guide is available at Popular Mechanics: Everything You Need To Know About Going To Space

Space has it all. Circular mountain ranges! Metallic aster­oids! Geysers of sulfur! Oceans on a steady boil! It may just be the ultimate vacation destination. But how do you pack for the moon? What are you looking at for lodging? Will you get carsick in a rocket? In the era of space tourism, these are things you need to know.

So here’s the first thing: They call it “The Over­view Effect.” It’s what happens when you see the Earth from space, all you’ve ever known just a glitter­ing orb in the cosmic empti­ness. Your sense of humanity grows. Your perception shifts. You are forever changed.

Sounds kind of scary. But then, isn’t it exactly why we travel?

** Public response to space tourism has always been robust even when such trips for the public were not feasible:

In other words, everything was in place for Pan Am’s moon mania. Pistor’s initial moon-flight booking spawned a craze that would ultimately see Pan Am field 100,000 moon reservation requests under its First Moon Flights Club, which finally closed in 1971. All members were given cards with a number—an indication of one’s place on the ever-growing queue of layman astronauts.

A membership card in Pan Am’s “First Moon Flights” Club. Credits: Jeff Gates/National Air and Space Museum

** The SpaceX StarShip flight around the Moon with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a group of artists might just make the 2023 target liftoff date for the Super Heavy Booster/StarShip combo considering the rapid progress that the company is making with the StarHopper.

The StarHopper is a low altitude suborbital test vehicle, with nearly the same dimensions as the StarShip, that the company will use to master the vertical takeoff and landing techniques needed to operate the massive reusable StarShip upper stage.


The Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect