In light of the recent announcement from Russian space company, Energia, about a new space tourism program, perhaps it is time to review the options we as citizens have in exploring Earth’s last frontier: space.
Vladimir Solntsev, president of Energia, reportedly told the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda that the company, which was behind the technology that sent the first human into space in 1961, is “discussing the possibility of sending tourists on spacewalks.”
On top of that, Energia has also proposed building a luxury hotel on the International Space Station, which includes all the modern amenities like exercise equipment, bathrooms, medical stations, and even Wi-Fi. Pricing for a stay at the space hotel starts at $40 million dollars, with an extra $20 million required if you want to take a spacewalk with a professional cosmonaut.
Today it seems you don’t need to be an astronaut, with years of training and experience under your belt, to explore space. But what you certainly do need is money.
Tickets for Energia’s proposed plans for space tourism will cost $100 million. Not a problem for our uber rich. “Market analysts have confirmed (that) wealthy people are ready to pay money for this,” Solntsev said. The first planned trip is predicted for some time in 2019.
But if you don’t have that kind of money, there may be cheaper options available for your space exploration needs.
Who’s Offering Space Travel?
Virgin Galactic – CEO of Virgin Galactic, George T. Whitesides, confirmed last April that it planned to send up tourists in space by the end of 2018. The application process includes filling out a “future astronaut application form” that asks questions, such as “What are your motivations to go to space?” Tickets are currently selling for $250,000. The vehicle planned for this venture was announced in 2016, the SpaceShipTwo, which will carry six passengers and two pilots 65 miles high. Once they reach sub-orbital levels, tourists will be able to experience weightlessness and see the curve of the Earth against the dark backdrop of space.
Blue Origin – In April 2019, Blue Origin plans to take flight with tourists using its New Shepard rocket. Blue Origin has a detailed analysis on its website of the journey New Shepard will take, as well as a short animated movie summarizing the experience space tourists will undergo. Though they haven’t released pricing for tickets yet, Blue Origin’s competitor, Virgin Galactic, is pricing theirs at $250,000, which might serve as a rough estimation for what a ride on the New Shepard will cost.
World View Enterprises – Offering the cheapest option, World View Enterprises is taking a different approach to space tourism than the previous companies. With $75,000 dollars, prospective tourists can purchase an “Early Bird Ticket.” The mode of transportation will be a high-altitude balloon, which will take tourists, or “voyagers,” up to a height of 20 miles above the earth, where they will hover for two hours gazing at the Earth below. In addition to the “breathtaking views of the curvature of the Earth against the backdrop a vast, black, and star-studded universe,” voyagers will have access to a bar within the comfortable capsule, which fits six tourists and two World View crew members. “In-flight real-time social media communications” will also be available for tourists, so that the experience could be shared with family and friends.
Chicago News’ favorite option for exploring the last frontier is World View’s high-altitude balloon. Although still expensive, the voyage and experiences World View will provide explorers and adventurers will be worth every penny.
“Seeing the Earth hanging in the blackness of space and realizing our connection to it and the universe around us will prove a transformative experience, opening a whole new realm for exercising human curiosity, scientific research, and education,” said Jane Poynter, CEO of World View.
What Poynter is referring to is the overview effect, which was a concept and term first coined in 1987 by Frank White. The effect posits that once a human being sees Earth from space, a tiny ball of life without any visible national boundaries and strife, their world view will be altered and transformed in order to realize the bigger picture of our existence in a seemingly infinite universe. For space explorers, the need to be united in protecting our planet becomes an important and worthy endeavor.
by Darius Vinesar