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.”