Magazine article The Futurist

The Future of Space Tourism: Space Travel Is Now a Luxury of the Elite but Millions of People Are Eager to Go

Magazine article The Futurist

The Future of Space Tourism: Space Travel Is Now a Luxury of the Elite but Millions of People Are Eager to Go

Article excerpt

In spring 2001, American businessman Dennis Tito became the world's first space tourist when he flew on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station for a price of $20 million. This proves that space tourism is possible for the very wealthy, but will it be an economically viable segment of the tourist industry? Those who are up-to-date on space tourism think it is not only viable, but that it will happen soon--within the next 15 years. In fact, NASA has suggested that a space hotel might be completed in the next couple of decades, creating a market with such amenities as space restaurants.

For now, the whole process of space tourism is stuck in what the Japanese Rocket Society calls the "vicious circle." High launch costs and rare flight opportunities mean limited numbers of potential customers; this makes transportation infrequent, providing little incentive to develop new cost-saving launch systems. The circle must be broken for space tourism to develop more efficiently. And if there is an emerging market of space tourists, the process will start to grow very fast.

Students support space tourism

Hospitality industry students at Switzerland's Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne were surveyed about space tourism, and 77% reported awareness of the topic. However, the majority of respondents thought it would take more than 20 years until space tourism begins. When asked whether they wanted to take a trip into space, 67% said yes. More than 90% of these respondents were between 19 and 26 years old, a relevant sample since the young today are more likely to be potential customers for space tourism within 10 years or more.

Demand for space travel has evolved considerably since 1955, when a poll in England showed interest at just 9%. Of course, much has changed over the past half century. Human space flight began April 12, 1961, with the one-orbit flight of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Then came the first men on the moon in 1969 with Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. With these events and other related milestones, public attention increasingly turned toward space.

More than 70% of Japanese under 60 years old said they want to visit space in their lifetime, according to a 1993 poll. Around 60% of Americans and Canadians ages 20-50 want a space vacation, according to a 1995 poll. And 34.7% of UK citizens said yes to potential space travel, while 23.6% said maybe, according to a recent UK poll. Considering these numbers refer to an industry that does not yet exist, such high percentages are very encouraging. …

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