Recent events, such as the space flight of billionaire Jeff Besos, have us wondering if we are in for a revolution in travel? Will we all soon be able to afford a space vacation?
Even after the first successes in the field of space exploration, many people considered its intensive conquest as an inevitable phenomenon. In their opinion, the next phase of human presence in space was to be public access to space, mainly in the form of tourism. Such inspirations can be found in the science fiction literature of the time, for example in the books: “A Fall of Moondust” by Arthur C. Clarke, “2001: A Space Odyssey” by the same author, “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” by Roald Dahl, “Picnic on Paradise” by Joanna Russ or in Larry Niven’s series of short stories “Known Space”. In a way, the end of dreams about space tourism in that period was the landing of U.S. cosmonauts on the moon, which ended the Cold War race. This diminished the popularity of space conquest and led to a decline in the importance of manned spaceflight
When we talk about space tourism, we mainly mean commercial flights, those in which the person flying into space is not an astronaut or someone employed by a space agency. The first space tourist to pay for his flight was Dennis Tito, who visited the International Space Station on April 28, 2001 and stayed there for seven days. His feat was repeated in 2002 by millionaire Mark Shuttleworth, who lives in South Africa. The third space tourist was Gregory Olsen, whose journey took place in 2005. He was a skilled scientist employed by a company that makes special high-sensitivity cameras, and he planned to conduct a series of experiments aboard the station, in part to help test the company’s products. He had planned his flight before, but had to cancel because of health problems. This phase in space tourism ended with the Columbia shuttle disaster. Later, Soviet Soyuzes became the only mode of transportation to the International Space Station.
The topic of tourist spaceflight has recently resurfaced thanks to private companies that have taken an interest in it. These include Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic, Starchaser, Blue Origin, Armadillo Aerospace and XCOR Aerospace. At this point, the market leader seems to be Virgin Galactic, owned by multi-billionaire Richard Branson. Recently the owner himself took a trip with this line. He returned whole and healthy, but did not cross the so-called Karman line, which for many is the “limit of space”. Branson reached an altitude of about 80 km, and this limit is at an altitude of 100 km from the surface of the Earth.
Many people accuse space tourists of losing the environment through their “whims”. The rockets that carry tourists into orbit are said to produce massive amounts of substances that are harmful to our environment. In 2010, a NASA-funded study simulated the effects of launching a thousand hybrid rockets. 600 tons of carbon compounds would then be released into the stratosphere.
Main image: WikiImages/pixabay.com