• Article
  • 19 Sep 2023
Adam StockleyPhoto
Adam Stockley

Space Tourism – How Does it Work?

Space Tourism Blog Pohoto + Listing Image

For many of us, the idea of going to space can be little more than a dream. But with the rise of space tourism, it has the potential to become a reality for those who can afford it. So, what is space tourism, and how soon do we anticipate spaceflight could be possible for the average person?

What is Space Tourism?

Put simply, space tourism refers to flights into space made by people who aren’t professional astronauts. It’s generally used to refer to people who don’t take part in space missions, although in the past it has been used for the likes of Gregory Olsen, who was a private researcher.

There are currently two main branches of space tourism: sub-orbital and orbital. Sub-orbital spaceflight is when the craft reaches space but doesn’t break the gravitational border, meaning it doesn’t complete a full orbit. Blue Origin’s 2021 mission that included William Shatner was a sub-orbital space tourist flight.

Orbital spaceflight, unsurprisingly, means reaching orbit, where passengers may spend up to a week orbiting the Earth. According to Evona, orbital space tourism is expected to grow by 41% by 2030, although sub-orbital space tourism currently dominates the market.

What Does Space Tourism Involve?

Space tourists go on space flights without any role in current space missions. As such, their purpose is simply to enjoy the experience. This is why they’re referred to as tourists, although that title is contentious within the industry.

Applicants still have to go through some level of training and medical exams, but the rules are slightly less strict than for professional astronauts. Because tourists are only in space for a few minutes to a few days, it’s not necessary to do as extensive training and medical tests.

Then there’s the cost of space tourism. The price of a ticket varies wildly depending on the company and type of flight. For example, Jon Goodwin, a member of a recent Virgin Galactic mission, paid $200,000 for his ticket back in 2005. Current prices for a Virgin Galactic ticket can range from $250,000 to $450,000.

Granted, this is a pretty steep price, but it’s significantly less than the $20 million the first space tourist paid in 2001. Many of the early space tourists, such as Dennis Tito and Guy Laliberte, were billionaires for obvious reasons. Thankfully, the price will likely drop further as space tourism companies reach economies of scale.

What is the Future of Space Tourism?

The idea of going to space is pretty popular; various surveys put its approval at anywhere from 34-88%. Its cost is obviously still prohibitive for many, but as companies expand their fleets, this could change.

Current industry plans involve space hotels and lunar tourism. Orion Span, a galactic experience company, launched plans for a luxury space hotel in 2018. Its concept, called Aurora Station, has space for four guests and two crew members. Its proposed price for a 12-day stay is $9.5 million, so it’s probably still a bit pricey for many of us.

However, a space tourism boom isn’t without its concerns. The environmental impact of increasing space missions can’t be ignored, and neither can the increased resource depletion. Also, the industry is developing faster than its legislation, meaning there are numerous issues around jurisdiction, authority, safety and liability.

While these factors are true for many developing industries, space tourism necessitates careful consideration. How this will play out in the future remains to be seen, but we can only hope that legislation catches up with current near-term goals.