Out of this world luxury

Experiences, not possessions, are the future of luxury. And no experience is more unique than a trip into space.

It’s a modern-day trend that consumers are looking to define themselves by their experiences, rather than their possessions. Some look for hedonism, like chartering a super yacht for a cruise around the Caribbean, or dining at the world’s top-rated restaurants. Others prefer their luxury experiences to come with a little hardship—like climbing Everest at a typical package cost of around $45,000, with no guarantee of a return trip.

But these pale into insignificance when compared to the ultimate out of this world experience: space travel.

Fifty years ago, on July 16, 1969, three men strapped into their seats on top of a massive Saturn V launcher without paying a cent. Their ticket to ride was their courage, skill, and years of training that would put human beings on the surface of the moon for the first time in human history.

Today, you can take your choice of space jaunts, if you have the health and the bank account. For a mere $250,000, Virgin Galactic will take you to the 62-mile-high Karman line that marks the boundary between the upper atmosphere and outer space. About 650 have already booked their seats, but the date of the first flight hasn’t been announced yet.

That’s one small step for man, and one giant leap for the tourism industry.

Some have already gone further for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. In 2001, Dennis Tito, the world’s first ‘space tourist,’ reportedly spent $20 million for nearly eight days in orbit as a crew member of ISS EP-1, visiting the International Space Station. Eight years, later Guy Laliberté, the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, paid a reputed $35 million for a similar trip.

Soon, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plan to offer space flight for those with the guts to go and the means to pay. The catering and inflight movies won’t be a match for a first class airline seat, but the view will be a lot more interesting.

What makes people spend so much on a journey that could be their last, if something goes wrong? Maybe they’ve already had all the three-star Michelin meals and 5-star spa vacations that one human being could desire. Maybe the element of risk, and the unique experience of floating in zero gravity as the Earth rotates silently beneath you, is the greatest luxury of all.

Or, as Neil Armstrong certainly didn’t say on July 21, 1969: “That’s one small step for man, and one giant leap for the tourism industry.”