For decades after the invention of space travel, the only way for a human to hop aboard a rocket and leave the atmosphere was to become an astronaut, going through a myriad of examinations and training. However, nowadays there is another avenue open for people who dream of travelling to the outer space, and that is to become filthy rich, so rich that you can afford a $250,000 ticket from Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company run by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.
Once, being one of the richest people on Earth meant buying your own private island, building up a collection of highly expensive cars, or, when gastronomy is a stake, snacking on caviar. Now, though, there's a new and out of this world status symbol for the rich, namely, space travel as a tourist.
Space has always mesmerised humankind, some companies are trying to capitalise on this allure. So, commercial spaceflight is now a reality.
Commercial spaceflight started on April 28, 2001, when American businessman Dennis Tito became the first-ever space tourist. He reportedly spent $20 million to fly up to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. He spent about six days in space and then landed in Kazakhstan on May 6, 2001.
In the years that followed, private space companies kept working on their technology. One of the most promising companies, Virgin Galactic, is gearing up for their first commercial flight. Their ticket is estimated to cost around $250,000, for which the passenger would be taken to an altitude of 100km above the Earth's surface, onboard their SpaceShip Two space plane. In the 90 minutes of flight, the passengers would be able to experience weightlessness for few minutes and be able to gaze back at Earth.
The price may seem intimidating, but more than 700 prospective space tourists – including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber – have already purchased tickets to take short flights on the six-passenger winged vehicle. Virgin Galactic is now aiming to start flying paying customer sometime in
As a matter of fact, the might would likely increase, according to Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. However, he did not specify exactly how much the price would be raised.
Virgin Galactic is not the only company who are trying to make money in this field, though. SpaceX's founder Elon Musk has his fingers in a lot of technological endeavors, and he ambitiously claimed that SpaceX would be flying passengers to Mars for around $200,000. Jeff Bezos's rocket company Blue Origin plans something similar to Virgin Galactic, hoping to send space tourists on brief suborbital flights using their New Shepard rocket system. Their short sightseeing trips are likely to cost around $200,000 to $300,000, though when they might start passenger flights is not yet known.