Space is – as Star Trek puts it – the "final frontier". Commercial space tourism is still a tiny market by anyone's standard, but it has definitely arrived – for those who can afford it.
While very few can go to space, everyone with good eyes can see it for free, and do amateur astronomy from anywhere on Earth's surface.
Outer Space, or simply Space, is the area that is above the Kármán Line, a line that is drawn at an altitude of 100 km (62 mi). The vast majority of space is empty, as there is on average just 1 atom per cubic meter in space. However, there are some objects, both natural and artificial in space, including planets, moons, stars, space stations and artificial satellites.
HistoryStarting from the invention of the telescope in 1610, space travel and rocketry had been theorized. The first rocket is launched in 1926 but it did not cross the Kármán Line (one of the commonly accepted boundaries of "space"), and the first rocket to cross the Kármán Line is the V-2 Rocket launched by Germany in 1944. The first animals to be sent into space is some fruit flies launched in 1947 by the US, and the dog Laika was the first animal to be sent into earth orbit launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union.
Driven to prove their superiority during the Cold War, as well as to gain a strategic advantage, the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union began the "Space Race" during the 1960s. In 1961, the first human, Yuri Gagarin, was sent into space by the Soviet Union and after the Americans managed to put some men into space as well, the USSR put Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman, into space in 1963. In 1969, the American Neil Armstrong became the first person on the Moon. Starting from 1971, the Soviet Union launched the Salyut space stations and they were the first space stations ever. Probes began to explore the solar system also around this point. Space seemed very close; at one point, tickets to the moon and to as-yet-nonexistent space stations were being sold.
After the Space Race ended, a new sense of reality set in. The wild dreams of the 1960s and 70s died, and humanity turned its attention earthward again. Space travel beyond Earth's orbit became the exclusive domain of mankind's robotic explorers, and high-profile tragedies both reaching and returning from orbit provided sobering reminders of the risks of space travel. By the end of the 20th century, travel into space was still exclusively the domain of governmental organizations.
However, necessity changed the situation with the dawn of the 21st century, starting with the construction of the International Space Station in 1998. Desperate for funds, the Russian Space Agency began to sell seats on Soyuz launches. Businessman Dennis Tito became the first pay-to-fly space tourist in April 2001, and since then a handful have followed in his footsteps, some of them even on more than one flight.
EnvironmentSpace is an extreme environment. The temperature is about −270 °C (−454 °F), cosmic rays would cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting and damage to the immune system, and body fluids, such as blood, boil in space. So a space suit must be worn when outside of spaceships and space stations.
Although physical fitness remains a concern, the main obstacle to reaching space is the depth of your wallet. In increasing order of both cost and distance from the Earth:
On EarthEven if you never get to go to space yourself, there are quite a few space-related places on Earth. At these museums and launch sites, you can learn about crewed missions and the robotic probes used as a scientific research tool where cost, distance, lack of sufficiently-advanced technology or extreme conditions make human exploration impractical or impossible. Points which are beyond the reach even of probes are typically only accessible to remote observation from afar, such as by astronomy or radio astronomy.
MuseumsBecause there are so many space museums around the Earth, it will be impossible to list them all. Below are the most popular:
phone: +86 10 6835 2453
phone: +1 613-991-3044
phone: +1 281 483-0123
phone: +1 303 984-9346
phone: +7 495 683-79-14address: 111 Prospekt Mira, 129223 MoscowThis is a large space museum with over 98,000 items about Soviet and Russian space exploration, and is located inside the base of the Monument of the Conquerors of Space. There's a Soyuz rocket and a duplicate of the very first artificial satellite inside! Tours are available for booking and can be in English. Not far from the Museum is the Sergey Korolev Memorial House, which is the house where Sergey Korolev, the designer of the first artificial satellite once lived. This house is also a museum, with over 13,000 items about Sergey Korolev's life.
phone: +33 1-49-92-70-00This is one of the earliest air and space museums in the world, and it is over 100 years old. There are 12 halls (exhibitions) in the museum, and 1 of them is about space: La conquête spatiale (the space conquest). There are many models of rockets and satellites. Of the 4 activities, the Planetarium and Planète Pilote (Pilot Planet) is space-related. The Planetarium have a large dome-shaped screen with 7039 stars and 20 deep space objects. The Planète Pilote is dedicated to 6 to 12 year olds, but parents and/or educators may enter. It have an Aviation part and a Space part, and it have over 40 interactive activities.
phone: +1 202 633-2214address: 600 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC, USAThis museum has exhibitions about both aviation and space exploration, and there's 3 exhibitions about space exploration. The Space Race exhibit, like its name, is about the Space Race and features a model of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Moving Beyond Earth exhibit is about modern space exploration. It includes presentation stages and gigantic drawings of Earth and the ISS on the wall. Finally, the Exploring the Planets exhibit is about the exploration of the Solar System, and it contains models of the Voyager space probes and the Curiosity Mars rover.
phone: +1 800 637-7223
Launch sites and labs
phone: +7(495)745 72 61
phone: +1 818 354-9314
phone: +1 855 433-4210
phone: +594 37 77 77 (museum and tours), +594 33 44 53 (rocket launches)
phone: +1 661 824-2433
- Moscow. This town's location is kept in secret until the 1990s, even though the news often talk about it. There's a statue of Yuri Gagarin in town. About 70% of its population of 6 thousand have jobs about space. There are 2 parts: the residental area and the training facility.
phone: +7 495 526-26-12address: Star City, Moscow Oblast, RussiaThe cosmonaut training facility inside Star City. The world's first and largest centrifuge is located here, and it can produce up to 20 times Earth's gravity. There's also an airport for parabolic "vomit comet" flights (see below). The Hydro Lab uses many advanced technology to simulate a weightless environment, and have a big tank of water. Finally, there are many simulators used to train various skills.
See astronomy for information on observing space phenomena from the ground.
While not actual space travel, the weightlessness experienced in orbit can be duplicated (for durations of less than a minute at a time) with a calibrated parabolic aircraft flight, which alternates low g-forces at the heights of its arcs with high g-forces at the bottoms. The parabolic flights are notoriously nausea-inducing, leading to the nickname Vomit Comet, but commercial operators claim that their shorter flights (15 parabolas) are considerably gentler than lengthy research flights (40–80).
phone: +1 941 346-2603address: 1903 Northgate Blvd, Sarasota, Florida, USAThis company provides zero-g flights either from Moscow or from Florida. You can customize when do you want to fly in the Florida flights. In the Florida flights, your plane will go from Martian gravity (1/3 Earth gravity) to Lunar gravity (1/6 Earth gravity) and finally to zero-g, and the flight will last for 10~12 maneuvers and each maneuver lasts for 10 seconds. In the Moscow flights, the flight will last for 1.5 to 2 hours but you'll only get to float for 5 minutes. The plane will depart from the Chkalovsky Airfield for Moscow and St Pete-Clearwater International Airport for Florida. Children under 18 years old are not allowed to go on either flight.
phone: +1 703 894-2188Las Vegas (Nevada), San Francisco (California), Orlando, Miami and Cape Canaveral (all Florida) on a modified Boeing 727 named "G-FORCE ONE" with a large compartment suitable for weightless tumbling. 15 parabolas will be flown, with several brief simulations of freefall, Lunar gravity (1/6 Terran), and Martian gravity (1/3 Terran). There's about 8 minutes of freefall. After the flight ends, there will be a Regravitation Ceremony and you'll be handed out certificates and pre-flight photos.
phone: +49 421 24 13 311
phone: +41 44 500 50 10, +44 20 3179 3070Moscow and also zero-g flights in the U.S. with a Boeing 727-200, or a smaller aircraft leaving from Tampa daily. The Russian flight includes a tour of Star City, and the Gagarin Training Center inside it. American flights includes some parabolas at Lunar gravity.
Edge of space
Flights at altitudes of less than 100 km do not qualify as true space flight, but it is possible to see the curvature of the Earth from altitudes as (comparatively) low as 25 km.
phone: +41 44 500 50 10, +44 20 3179 3070Spain, where the BLOON launch site is located. That night, there will be some easy training and stargazing using telescopes. The next day, you must get up early for the flight, and the BLOON will ascend to about 36 km. See the curvature of the Earth! After 2 hours, the BLOON will descend, and you'll soon be back on Earth.
phone: +41 44 500 50 10, +44 20 3179 3070
Sub-orbital flight is defined as flight at altitudes higher than 100 km but at speeds insufficient to achieve orbit. While there are no operators offering sub-orbital flight, the privately funded and built SpaceShipOne in 2004 demonstrated that this is a possible market and the race is on to commercialize it.
Virgin GalacticFounded by who else but Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is selling tickets for sub-orbital flights on SpaceShipTwo for US$250,000 a seat. Flights will go up to ~50,000 ft (110 km) and reach speeds of Mach 3, but while total flight time is 2.5 hours, weightlessness will only last for about six minutes. The company has placed an order for five second-generation spaceships from Scaled Composites, the builders of SpaceShipOne. Initial flights will take place from Mojave, California (US), but later flights will move to Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (US) and Kiruna, Sweden. Departures will first be weekly, and eventually climbing to once or twice daily. Three-day training will be available on site. A successful test flight was performed on 5 April 2018.
BoeingBoeing announced the CST-100, a sub-orbital plane capable of suborbital flight and 7-passengers capacity in "competitive prices".
address: 8000 Towers Crescent Drive, Suite 1000, Vienna, Virginia, USASpace Adventures has organized orbital flights to the International Space Station (ISS), the only fully functioning space station in orbit. Around US$35 million per person will buy you basic training and a launch on a Soyuz vessel from the Russian Cosmodrome at Baikonur to the ISS. Participants must also fulfill certain physical fitness requirements to ensure their and the mission's safety. The ISS was launched in 1998 and has a Russian half and an American half. It orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, and 16 sunrises and sunsets can be seen from it every 24 hours. The ISS consists of 14 main modules including 4 labs, a utility hub, an airlock and a life support module.
- Private firms SpaceX and Boeing plan to begin transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia's Soyuz spacecraft had exclusively filled this gap since the 2011 end of the US space shuttle program. NASA plans to allow tourists to stay on the ISS starting in 2020, charging $35,000 per night. The charge for transportation to and from the ISS by Boeing or SpaceX is estimated at $60 million per flight, though as of 2019 these flights have not yet started.
China is testing out the technology for space stations and is planning to launch a complete modular space station (like the ISS) by 2022.
Human travel beyond Low Earth Orbit has not been done since the cancellation of the U.S. Apollo program by President Nixon in 1972. The only programs actively working to re-establish this capability are governmental in nature. Whilst there have a been a a few speculative commercial proposals for trans orbital tourist flights, nothing has yet been reliably offered to the potential traveller.
SpaceX is planning a pilot tourist flight around the Moon for Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who wants to invite a group of artists to come with him. The trip is planned for 2023, but the company has a history of making ambitious plans and then delaying or canceling them, so it remains to be seen whether they'll stick to the schedule.
Unmanned space craft have traveled around and outside the solar system, like the Voyager probes, but no human has yet travelled to a planet other than Earth. For years there has been talk of sending someone to Mars, but the barriers are formidable – travel time could be anywhere from several months to a couple of years, the environment is cold and inhospitable, the voyager would be subject to an extended period of weightlessness and exposure to radiation, the entire mission must be self-contained and the question of how to bring the astronauts back to Earth at the end of the journey remains unanswered. In the meantime, the robots bring back valuable scientific data which may not yet be obtainable by any other means.
- The sight of the Earth from Space is reputed to be incomparable.
- At altitudes above the thick atmosphere, the stars cease to "twinkle" and eventually disappear from view completely.
- Sunrise and sunset lose much of their multicolored glory, but take on greater intensity and speed at orbital and even suborbital velocities.
- The Northern and Southern Lights can be seen from space.
- Freefall (often inaccurately called "zero gravity") is a phenomenon which, while not unique to Space travel, occurs only momentarily on Earth, such as in thrill rides or high-speed elevators. If you experience freefall and don't do some aerobatics and float around the craft, you've wasted a great deal of money.
- Take pictures – what else are you going to do all day? Don't forget the extra memory cards.
- Tourists traveling on otherwise scientific missions may be expected to contribute to them, participating in medical observations at the least.
- Extravehicular activity (EVA). Perhaps better known as spacewalking, this involves exiting the spacecraft to float around in space. This is now available as an option at Space Adventures, but there have been no takers yet: this costs US$20 million extra, requires an extra month of training and has additional fitness qualifications.
Space diveOrbital Outfitters is designing Sub-orbital Space Suit One, a suit to be worn by crew on sub-orbital flights and potentially suitable for "space diving" from 120,000 ft.
Space campNASA runs space camps at various locations in the U.S. for children and teenagers with an interest in astronomy.
Although space food has come a long way in terms of taste and variety in recent decades, the quality and taste is still not up to standards of most connoisseurs of fine cuisine. Your transportation provider may offer some choice in the foods available, but you will be limited by their willingness to indulge you.
The freeze-dried "astronaut ice cream" sometimes sold on Earth as a novelty item is a misnomer; it has never actually been served on any manned space mission (in a zero-gravity environment, the floating crumbs would likely have interfered with the onboard equipment). However, real ice cream has been eaten in space by astronauts aboard Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station.
Water tends to be scarce (as it is heavy and must be brought from Earth), so International Space Station machinery recycles water aggressively. Everything from fuel cell water to humidity and waste water is efficiently recovered. According to some reports on the "fluffy newspiece" pages of the internet, astronauts actually prefer the recycled water. Your mileage might vary, but be assured, that chemically and biologically speaking, the recycled water is 100% safe for human consumption.
Bigelow AerospaceThey built the first successful prototype of an inflatable space hotel in 2006-2007. In 2016, a prototype was delivered to the ISS on a SpaceX rocket to undergoing testing, but otherwise it will remain unoccupied. A 10–60 day "live and work visit", once available, is expected to cost between $26–37 million.
Both start (unless they invent the space elevator any time soon, you are basically sitting on a huge bomb of fuel and hope it doesn't explode) and reentry (if you hit it in the wrong angle you burn up in or bounce off the atmosphere) have thus far proven to be the biggest danger during a mission. So far only three humans have died in space (as opposed to start and landing), but there have been several close calls such as Apollo 13 or the very first spacewalk. Some of the technological problems and close calls only became known to the public decades after they happened, so there may still be dangers you won't even know you are facing.
Voyagers should be wary of purchasing space flights on projects that haven't yet begun. Many ventures are highly speculative; PanAm's “First Moon Flights” Club issued over 93,000 waiting list spots between 1968-1971 and predicted launch dates for many subsequent commercial expeditions have slipped just as dramatically. If there are complications with the project or the company goes under, you might lose your money and your plans. Just look at the bold predictions of some private space companies that have already proven to be less permanent than a shooting star.
You need to exercise to stay healthy in zero gravity. Even so, you'll still lose both bone and muscle mass. While exercise helps diminish the problem somewhat a long stay will still see you weakened and several cosmonauts and astronauts had difficulty getting out of their capsule and onto their own feet upon landing.
Another concern is cosmic radiation. While you are exposed to a certain level of background radiation at all times, it gets higher in certain areas on earth and once you leave the protective layers of the atmosphere. This is already notable on a commercial transatlantic flight at 10,000 m and only gets worse if you go up to the International Space Station (ISS) at 200 to 300 km above the earth's surface. While the ISS still enjoys some limited protection against radiation, once you go well beyond that height, or even to the moon, there are short term and long term risks associated with radiation that only get worse the longer you stay. Particularly dangerous are solar storms that may give you a year's worth of radiation in just a couple of hours. Shielding against radiation is also one of the major problems in ever sending humans to Mars, as all known solutions involve huge amounts of extra weight for the space craft or too high a risk to the crew.