In 2020, NASA will open the International Space Station to tourists. Meanwhile, private space companies are racing to send travellers into orbit. Will you soon be going on holiday in space?
Is space tourism finally here?
Almost! NASA has announced that it will open the International Space Station (ISS) to tourists from 2020. Two private astronauts will make the journey per year, staying on the ISS for up to 30 days.
How will they get there?
This is where SpaceX (Elon Musk’s space company) comes in. NASA has paid SpaceX billions of dollars to build the Crew Dragon, a capsule that can carry astronauts to space and back.
In March, the spacecraft had its first successful test flight. The Crew Dragon was blasted into space atop the reusable Falcon 9 rocket, which flipped over and safely returned to Earth after launching.
Meanwhile, the Crew Dragon capsule went soaring into orbit, circling Earth 18 times before reaching the ISS. When it was time to return home, the Crew Dragon re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and survived temperatures of 1,600C as it sped back down to Earth. Eventually, it landed safely in the Atlantic Ocean.
Great! When can I go?
Don’t get too excited just yet. Space flight comes with a hefty price tag. NASA says a stay on the ISS will cost tourists $35,000 (£27,500) per night.
That is not including the “taxi fare” charged by SpaceX for a ride on the Crew Dragon, which will be around $60 million per flight.
Who else is working on space tourism?
NASA is also planning to ferry tourists in a new capsule called a Starliner, which is being built by aviation company Boeing.
Virgin Galactic (owned by Richard Branson) is developing a rocket-powered space plane, which will carry six passengers and two pilots into near-space. This is around 80km above the Earth’s surface.
Over 700 people have signed up for a £175,000 seat, including Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has similar plans for his company, Blue Origin, which hopes to launch its first person into space next year. Tourists will experience several minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth.
Is it worth the cost?
For Stephen Attenborough of Virgin Galactic, the feeling of leaving Earth is priceless.
“That’s the point when the switch flicks,” he said. “You get an understanding of the fragility of life and the beauty of the planet.”
This experience will become more accessible over time. Virgin Galactic hopes that the price tag for its flights will fall to £30,000 within 10 years, and keep falling beyond that.
Hotels on the Moon may still be a long way off but, with current progress, who knows where we will be in 50 years?
- Do you want to go to space one day?
- Imagine you are the boss of a new space tourism company. Design and write a leaflet for your first hotel, which will orbit Earth about 250 miles above the surface.
- America’s government-funded space agency.
- Not funded by the Government.
- Something which can be used more than once.
- The circular path of an object around a planet or a moon (in this case, Earth).
- Related to flying and aircrafts.
- When there is no force of gravity which keeps your body on the ground. This is what causes astronauts to float.
- Affordable or easy to access for everyone.