Your next car could come from India and your next vacation could bein space. Futurists predict that outer space will become "the" getaway of this century, and could begin showing up in travel guides by 2010.
Researcher Fred DeMicco says, "In the twenty-first century, space tourism could represent the most significant development experienced by the tourism industry?The technology to make space travel safer and cheaper is moving forward."
What kind of person will be lured to space travel? DeMicco says, "This is a destination for the 'extreme tourists'?tourists who want the ultimate new travel adventure and the thrill of outer space. They want something new and interesting: The room with the best view of Earth from space." Why settle for a hotel room with a view of the beach?
According to surveys of the demand for space tourism undertaken in 2001 and 2006 by a US consulting company called Futron, the average age of the person who wants to become a space tourist is 55 years old, 72% are males and 28% are females, 46% have above average or better fitness, 48% spend a month or more on vacation annually, and 41% work full-time and 23% are retired. The projected demand is 13,000 passengers in 2021, which will generate revenues of $700 million annually.
While only a few multimillionaires have been able to afford the current $20 million price tag to go up in a Russian rocket for a two-week stay at the International Space Station, shorter, more affordable "suborbital" space flights, costing on the order of $80,000 per trip, likely will drive space tourism in the near term. Futurist Silvia Ciccarelli says, "During these flights, a spacecraft reaches space, but it does not enter Earth's orbit." These suborbital trips are likely to become available to tourists by 2010-2015, while tourism in space hotels is predicted to become a reality in 2025.
So what will tourists in space do? They won't play golf. According to Ciccarelli, "Passengers will enter a world that only astronauts and cosmonauts have experienced: The acceleration of a rocket launch, weightlessness, and a spectacular view of the Earth." Special sports could be designed for the weightless chamber on the craft, especially if it's large enough so passengers can "swim" in the air.
A safer, cheaper launch system is critical if space travel is to become more commonplace in the future. An elevator rising tens of thousands of miles into space is one possibility that scientists and entrepreneurs are considering. DeMicco says, "Until recently this was a fantasy because there were no materials strong enough to build such a cable. Today, however, so-called carbon nanotubes up to twenty times stronger than steel are approaching mass production, and engineers say a space elevator could be completed within fifteen years."
While short excursions into outer space may be on the itinerary in the near term, a "space port" currently is being built in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with support from Virgin Galactic and other companies, and hotel chains are planning new locations some 238,000 miles above, on the moon. According to DeMicco, "Lunar hotels are now being planned. Galactic Suites is known as the first space hotel, and they promote delivering 15 sunrises and sunsets in a single day for the adventure travelers who are willing to spend approximately $4 million for a three-day 'stay' in space."
Art credit: freeimages.co.uk
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