Up And Up And Up
A flight to the stars – it’s a dream that up until a few years ago, only a few elite astronauts could ever take seriously. The last few years have seen big changes in space tourism however, and at the moment the only real limitation is the cost.
As Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon on 21st July 1969, it was a landmark event in the history of human space exploration – everything seemed possible and was only a question of time. But things haven’t gone quite as expected. The next moon mission is but mere speculation planned for 2020, and this year saw the aging space shuttle finally grounded for good. Even the International Space Station (ISS) has seen its share of troubles, with inhabitants forced to evacuate in March 2012 due to a potential collision with space debris. Good that there weren’t any tourists on board at the time, otherwise it could have gotten a little cramped.
Since 2001, the International Space Station has accommodated numerous private visitors – a service run by Space Adventures, the market leader in space tourism. The American company doesn’t actually own its own carrier vehicles, relying instead on rockets such as the Sojus-FG for transport of its customers. At a cost of 20 million dollars including meals for eleven days in space is not exactly a bargain, but then again, it certainly is exclusive.
But there’s also a better deal coming. As of 2013, Virgin will be offering group spaceflights, with a world space port in New Mexico already complete. Richard Branson promises interested parties around two and a half hours at an altitude of 100 kilometers for around 145,000 euros. And as an extra bonus, he’s also announced that the person to collect the most Virgin airlines miles up until the service is officially launched will receive a flight to space for free. The ultimate frequent flier reward.
If this doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are other choices at even more reasonable prices. Located in Bremen, Germany, Space Travellers also offers high-atmospheric flights and zero-g experiences. As of 2013, they will begin using the Lynx craft designed by American manufacturer XCOR as their main space vehicle. This two-seater can take guests to a height of a ‘mere’ 61 kilometers, but at a price of 72,500 euro including training, it’s also a bargain.
A final quick tip for all ambitious space travellers from Buzz Aldrin: never travel without a felt-tipped pen. The astronaut who travelled to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission used one to operate a broken switch necessary to return to our beautiful blue planet. Getting there is only half the battle…
If all of this is making you a bit queasy, there are plenty of places that can be reached at a more sane distance from our planet. Aboard a jetliner. Please see our World’s Luxury Guide Hotel Collection for more details.