In April of 2001, Dennis Tito
became the first traveler to pay for a trip to space
with money out of his own pocket. He decided to do it
and then just did it. That's what tourism is all about.
Since then six other "personal spaceflight participants"
have traveled to the ISS. The trips were arranged by
the company Space
Studies by NASA and
many other organizations have shown that there are sizable
markets for space tourism, both suborbital and orbital,
and that the markets will grow rapidly as the cost of
sending a person into space drops from current levels.
Adventure tourism, such as trips to Antarctica or Mount
Everest, has long been a profitable business. This can
involve packages with prices as high as $100k range
and even higher.
Though you commonly hear talk of "space
joyrides for the rich", the development of
space tourism will follow the normal course of development
seen for most all consumer technologies and services.
Tourism itself began as something only done by the
very rich. Passenger flights on airlines were initially
very expensive. VCRs, DVDs, PCs, etc. all started
out as very expensive "toys". Eventually
competition and economies of scale (i.e. mass production)
take over and prices drop to the level the middle
class can handle
Before orbital rides are widely available, suborbital
flights will be the most common way to ride
into space. There are several companies currently planning
suborbital space vehicles for tourism and other applications.
The typical plan is to got to around 100km where one
can see the horizon out to 1000km or so and clearly
see the curvature of the earth and the starry blackness
In October of 2004, Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne
won the X
PRIZE and thereby started a new race to develop
the first vehicle that will provide suborbital
space rides to paying customers. Suborbital generally
refers to an up-and-down ( i.e. mostly vertical)
flight that reaches an altitude of around 100km or more
but does not go into orbit around the earth.
The billionaire Richard Branson in September 2004 announced
a contract with Burt Rutan that gave him funding to
design and build a passenger vehicle referred to as
SpaceShipTwo (SS2). The goal for the SS2 was
to fly safely and routinely above 100km for a cost of
$250k per seat. The SS2 carries 6 passengers and 2 pilots.
The initial goal of Virgin
Galactic was to begin commercial flights
well before 2010. However, development problems, particularly
with the propulsion system, led to many postponements.
Commercial flights were finally expected to start in
2015 but an
accident in Oct. 2014 destroyed the SpaceShipTwo
and killed the copilot. The accident was caused by a
combination of pilot error and a poor design of the
controls of the return system.
Richard Branson, with the support from the 700+ people
who have put deposits down for flights, decided to continue
with the program. The newly built SpaceShipTwo
Unity vehicle was rolled out in January 2016. It
is to begin unpowered test flghts in 2016 and powered
flights in 2017. If all goes well, commercial flights
would start in 2018.
Origin, the company founded by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com
fame, has continued step-by-step development of vertical
takeoff and landing reusable rockets. As of July 2016,
the New Shepard rocket vehicle has flown four times
to over 100 km. The vehicle is a combination of a booster
and crew capsule.
After the engine shuts down, the New Shepard capsule
separates and a crew of up to 6 people will experience
about 4 minutes of weightlessness as the capsule passes
over the apogee of the flight. It will then enter the
atmosphere and land by parachute. Meanwhile, the booster
does a powered vertical landing. The first crewed flights
are set for 2017. If all goes well with the test program,
commercial flights with passengers will start in 2018.
The ticket prices are expected to be initially in the
You can also train for spaceflight by experiencing
microgravity in Russian plane flying parabolic
trajectories. The company ZERO-G
also offering such rides in the US for $5000 per person.
The first 20 flights were already sold out before they
began regular service. ZERO-G offers flights out of
Las Vegas, Kennedy Space Center and other locales.
If you can't pay for an orbital trip, perhaps you can
win a ride.
There are usually several contests going on at any particular
time that offer the opportunity for the winner to go
When orbital flights become lower in price, there are
companies designing space
hotels where you can enjoy microgravity sports
and astonishing views of earth. The company Bigelow
Aerospace has launched two prototypes of
its inflatable space habitat. Another module called
was attached to the International Space Station in 2016.
The company currently hopes to launch a BA-330
module (330 cubic meters volume) to the ISS in the
2020 and later in the 2020s create a free-flyer station
comprized of two or more BA-330s. SpaceX and Boeing
would provide commercial transport to the station. See
and Pricing - Bigelow Aerospace (Spring 2013).
Tourism: Seven tourists so far have
ridden Soyuz spacecraft to the International
Space Station for one week stays and more
are waiting to go at a ticket price in the
$30M range. (One person, Charles Simony,
has flown twice.) Bigelow
Aerospace is building a new generation
of space habitats based on light-weight,
high-volume inflatable designs. They are
intended to serve as both scientific stations
and space tourist destinations within the
tourism: At least two companies are
expected to begin selling rides in the 2013-2014
time frame on spaceships that will fly the
X PRIZE style trajectory to 100 km or higher.
This will provide around 5 minutes of weightlessness,
a view of the curvature of the earth and a
dark star-filled sky. Ticket prices are in
the $100k to $200k range.
Dennis Tito became earth's first
space tourist. His ride to the space station was arranged
by Space Adventures, described below. Space Adventures
and several other companies are also offering reservations
on future sub-orbital flights and also on MIGs and aircraft
flying parabolic trajectories to provide periods of
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, created Blue
Origin in the year 2000 and the company has slowly but
methodically moved forward towards reusable rocket vehicles
for human spaceflight. In November of 2015, an unmanned
Shepard vehicle flew to above 100 km. As of July
2016, the same vehicle has flown to space three more
The vehicle consists of a vertical takeoff and landing
reusable rocket booster and a crew capsule with large
windows that can carry up to 6 people. When the engine
shuts off, the crew capsule separates from the booster
and returns for a parachute landing. At apogee there
are about 4 minutes of weightlessness.
Tests will continue into 2017 when the first Blue Origin
employees will ride the New Shepard. If all goes well,
commercial flights will begin in 2018. Tickets are expected
to start out in the $250k range.
Here is a video of a flight in June 2016. As a test,
the capsule only deployed two parachutes instead of
the standard three.:
Richard Branson contracted with Burt Rutan's Scaled
Composites company in 2004 to develop a vehicle
called the SpaceShipTwo
based on the SpaceShipOne technology. It will carry
at least six passengers and two pilots to more than
100km latitude. The initial goal was to begin test flights
in 2008 and passenger operations in 2009 but various
technical problems caused repeated delays. The first
power test flights began 2013. Commercial flights were
to start in 2015 but an
accident in Oct. 2014 destroyed the SpaceShipTwo
and killed the copilot. The accident was caused by a
combination of pilot error and a poor design of the
controls of the feather return system.
Richard Branson decided to continue with the program
and the newly built SpaceShipTwo
Unity vehicle was rolled out in January 2016. It
is to begin unpowered test flghts later in 2016 and
powered flights in 2017. If all goes well, commercial
flights would start in 2018.
The SpaceShipTwo is built by The SpaceShip Company,
a wholely owned subsidiary of VG. Scaled Composites
is no longer involved in the vehicle construction.
The initial ticket price was $200k but was increased
to $250k in 2013.
The above Video shows a the SpaceShipTwo
on its third powered flight test on January 10, 2014
As of February 2014, the company has collected around
700 people signed up for flights.
Space Adventures is a full service space tourism agency.
It offers everything from Space Shuttle launch tours
to Soyuz flights to the Space Station. The company helped
arrange Dennis Tito's flight to the ISS as well as the
subsequent private visitors to the ISS. See below
for information on the "spaceflight participants"
who have gone to the ISS with the help of Space Adventures.
SA has several former astronauts on its advisory board,
including Buzz Aldrin. SA will arrange for you to take
a MIG ride to 25km in altitude or experience micro-gravity
in a Russian plane flying parabolic trajectories.
It also offers reservations on sub-orbital flights
when they become available in a few years. The pricing
is around $100k. Space Adventures has said in the past
that about 100 people have either placed deposits of
a few thousand dollars or paid the full amount.
Since 2005, the company has marketed plan with the
Russian space agency for a Soyuz system to fly two passengers
around the Moon for $100M a seat. More info here:
Aerospace XCOR Aerospace
is developing the Lynx
rocketships for flights to over 100km. The vehicle holds
a pilot and one passgner and test flights were to begin
in 2016 but the company suspended development of the
Lynx to focus on near term money making projects. The
Lynx Mark Iwas to be the initial prototype and it would
go to 60km. The Mark II version would be the production
vehicle that goes to 100 km.
Incredible Adventures offers several space related experiences
in addition to safaris and stock car racing. Like Space
Adventures, they will eventually offer suborbital rices
but in the meantime, they offer Mig-25 flights to 27 kms
in altitude and Zero-gravity parabolic flights in Russia.
Also, at Star City in Moscow you can undergo Cosmonaut
training. An added option is training in the Hydrolab
water tank that simulates EVAs.
Space Adventure Services
US firms like Space Adventures and Incredible Adventures
mentioned above have long offered access to Russian space-based
services like parabolic flights and rides on high altitude
MIG jets. Now there are are several Russian firms who
offer such services directly
is a Russian adventure travel company that offers
a number of space related packages such as:
is a UK based travel company that offers various adventure
tours, such as trips to Anarctic. It is now developing
tours package. WildWings is the UK Sales Agents
for Space Adventures Inc. (see above) and is taking
deposits on suborbital flights.
Also referred to as space tourists, citizen
explorers, and public spaceflight participants,
I like to use astourists and astournauts
for space travelers who pay for a trip to space with
their own money rather than with government funds.
We include here miscellaneous articles about individual
astounauts and civilian astronauts / cosmonauts who
are either publicly announced candidates for orbital
flights or have actually gone to orbit. (I don't include
the couple of politicians who flew on the shuttle since
they were government employees and didn't use their
own or private money.)
The theme of his trip will be based on the issues
related to water resources on earth:
During his 12-day stay at the ISS, Mr. Laliberté
will share information about water issues
in the world through a singular poetic approach.
The messages he transmits will raise awareness
for ONE DROP Foundation initiatives that promote
Water for all, all for water.
Traveled to the ISS in October 2008. He planned
a wide range of activities in education, commercial
microgravity experiments and in other areas. He
is a well known computer game developer (see bio
at Wikipedia) and is the son of former NASA
Garriott. He has also been a long time board
member of Space Adventures.
"Our Space - where space becomes personal.
Richard Garriott - computer games guru, adventurer
and astronaut - visited the International Space
Station in 2008. Now Richard is sharing some of
his amazing experiences with you through the videos
on this website. You can explore
the clips, find extra facts, images and explanations,
the material to use in lessons and projects.
....Now space can be your adventure too."
"To be frank this price tag is the
majority of my wealth, to be honest," Garriott
said Wednesday at a NASA briefing in Houston.
"The reason why it's worth that to me is that
this is the goal I've been working toward for
a significant portion of my adult life."
interview - Jan.2010 with Greg Olsen on a
New Jersey public TV program. He discusses his
trip to the ISS, the training, how his plans to
do crystal growth experiments were prevented by
export controls, etc. He has a new book out about
his space travels:
Flew to the International Space Station April 28 -
May. 6,2001 - first person to pay his own way into
space. The payment is often reported as $20M but
has been rumored to be as low as $12M.
Flew to Mir May 18-26, 1991 - a chemist who entered
a competition with 13000 applications for a flight
sponsored by several UK companies to send a British
citizen to Mir. After 18 months of training with 3
other finalists, she was selected as the one to go
to space. She carried out some experiments (one of
the candidate requirements was a scientific background)
during her week long stay but she was basically a
The company sponsoring the project failed to raise
the promised funding but the Soviet government decided
to continue with the project for the public relations
Flew to Mir Dec.2-10,1990 - some have called him the
first space tourist when he spent a week on
Mir during December of 1990. But he did not pay
his own way as Tito did and he had to compete
with other candidates. So calling him a tourist is
not really correct in the true spirit of the word.
(Are all the journalists who attend launches at Cape
Canaveral also tourists?)
Akiyama was certainly the first journalist to fly
in space. The Tokyo Broadcasting Service (TBS) in
1989 wanted to celebrate its 40th anniversary and
decided that sending one of its reporters into space
would be suitably spectacular. Akiyama came out on
top from the 163 candidates. TBS paid $12 million
($4 million of which was covered by sponsorships)
for the trip.
Akiyama was sick the first 3 days but was fine for
the rest of the week long stay. (A chain smoker, going
cold turkey for a week must have added extra pressure
on his system!) He took many pictures of Mir and of
earth and carried out a couple of scientific experiments.
He also sent live broadcasts each day to Japan.
- Japan scoops super powers by Philip Corneille
- BIS Spaceflight Magazine - Vol.43 March.2001
This South Africa millionaire flew to the ISS in 2002.
Made his fortune after founding and selling an Internet
based company. His flight payment was more like $14M
rather than the often quoted $20M.
The former head of the National
Space Society nearly had a flight to the ISS
arranged via the sponsorship of several corporations.
But the Astro Mom's mission fell through when
it conflicted with Lance Bass's efforts to go.
It is well known that the director of the movie
Titanic has been trying to arrange a trip
to the Space Station. However, he wants to carry
out an extensive
film project that includes a spacewalk for
himself. This involves far more training and use
of the station facilities and crew time than the
other space tourists. While he would pay for the
trip, this will be more of joint NASA/Cameron
documentary production than a space tourist trip
and will take a long time to arrange if ever.
The former member of the NSync group got the most
attention in the general press, especially the
part aimed towards young people, of any of the
orbital space tourist candidates. Unfortunately,
Bass's flight fell through when his complicated
sponsorship arrangement never got off the ground.
Plus the Shuttle Columbia accident put a hold
on private passenger flights on the Soyuz for
a couple of years.
With the cost to orbit expected to remain extremely
high for many years, the next best option is to take
a brief trip into space on a suborbital resuable rocket
Now that Burt Rutan's
SpaceShipOne has won the $10 million X
Prize contest, the race is on to become the first
company to provide routine flights to altitudes above
100km for space thrill seekers.
Though such rides would be relatively short, 15-30
minutes for the rocket powered segment and the unpowered
ascent and reentry, riders would nevertheless enjoy
one of the most amazing and thrilling experiences of
They would experience a few minutes of weightlessness,
look down on a clear view of the curvature of the earth,
and see bright stars in a black canopy above. One would
also get the accelerating thrill of riding a rocket
The question obviously arises as to how many people
would pay for such a ride, especially if the cost is
$100k to $200k. Surveys, in fact, shows considerable
interest among a sample of wealthy people. For more
info, see the Space
Tourism Markets section.
Places to buy tickets/place deposits for future suborbital
The following table shows a list of suborbital space
tourism companies that say they have full funding to
build and fly their suborbital space tourism vehicles
by 2008 and who issue regular progress reports on development
of their vehicles:
Truax offered back in the late 1970s a detailed
design for a high-altitude (80km) sub-orbital
rocket that was simple and cheap enough for a
private company to build. (Gary Hudson's Osiris
and Phoenix were much larger vehicles and intended
After the success of the SpaceShipOne
and the subsequent promise by Virgin
Galactic and other companies to create a space tourism
industry, companies around the world began to sponsor
promotional contests in which a suborbital spaceflight
was the grand prize. Here are some of the current and
completed contests and promotional programs.
Red Gate Software has teamed up with Space
Adventures to offer one lucky DBA a ticket
into space. Complete our video quiz, and you
could be the winner. Aside from the grand
prize, there’s a discount on Red Gate tools
available for anyone who enters, rewards for
the finalists, and a free eBook for everyone
who takes part in the voting.
25 Million Points - Virgin Blue in Australia
Blue Airlines in Australia in which new
frequent flyer points will be matched by entries
in a drawing to win 25 Million points. This
many points can be redeemed for four major
prizes including a ride on SpaceShipTwo.
Books and Space
Adventures sponsored a sweepstakes that
will give away a ticket on a commercial space
flight as the grand prize. The contest is
part of the promotion for Eric Anderson's
new book called The Space Tourist's Handbook,
which will be released in November.
The contest was completed and the prize awarded.
The following types of programs are not one-time sweepsakes
but will be permanent concerns that repeatedly reward
winners of their online skill games with spaceflights
and other space related prizes:
- UK based pay
to play competition, i.e. a raffle, for a ride on
a SpaceShip Two.
"Find the 10 Planets, and win a Holiday in Space".
A treasure hunt game in which the grand prize is a
trip to space on a suborbital rocket ship. This game
is free to play with no registration.
was founded by by Tony Webb and has been developing
various games and promotions since 2000 with the
goal of offering the general public a chance to
win a space tourism related prize. He also intends
for part of the pay-off from such projects to
go to companies developing space transport systems
Sponsorships - hold hole-in-one tournaments
in which the winner gets to ride on a Zero-G aircraft
There are insurance companies that sell
so-called "hole-in-one policies" that pay
off if someone hits a hole-in-one at such
a tournament. The companies know the odds
for hitting hole-in-ones so they calculate
the premiums such that over many such tournaments
they come out ahead. The purse for the X Prize,
in fact, was funded via a "hole-in-one" policy
in which the insurance company essentially
bet against any team winning the competition
before the deadline.
now offers a package of resources that make
it easy for an organizations to hold such
tournaments with a space prize theme.
More Contests, Games, &
Some of these programs have folded or become inactive
but are still interesting from an historical perspective
in regards to how space tourism developed during this
- "reality" show in which the participants
were tricked into believing they had received real
training and had actually gone into orbit. (They fell
for some silly explanation as to why they were not
Destination Space (originally
This project actually involved the producers of the
original Survivor TV program. They signed a
contract with MirCorp
for a group of contestants to go through Cosmonaut
training. The candidate that came out on top would
have gone on a week long trip to the Mir space station.
The project changed names to Destination Space
after Mir deorbited and the destination moved to
According to articles at MSNBC, the project is
still in development. However, the website has now
Space Commander / Brainpool
/ Space tv
The German Brainpool
AG group announced this contest that would send
a winner each year to the International Space Station.
They reportedly wanted to reserve 7 slots on Russian
Soyuz rockets; one for each year of the program.
However, the web page no longer responds and nothing
turns up in a search at Brainpool so probably the
project has either died or returned to a longer
term development stage.
Ancient Astronaut /
Sky Games - Image World Media
MirCorp signed a deal in 2001 with Image World
Media to reserve a seat on each of two Soyuz flights
in 2003. The Asia based company wanted to use the
seats to fly the winners of survivor games shows to
TV 2 - Den store mission (The Big Mission) - a Danish
TV contest that was to award contestants the opportunity
to ride on a sub-orbital flight when they become available.
Otherwise, they could take a monetary prize. Don't
know if any prizes were ever awarded.