Space travel can become a new way to have extreme experiences and admire the earth from above, provided you have a little patience and a lot of money.
Who is offering these flights?
Two companies are positioning themselves in the niche of short trips into space that last a few minutes: Blue Origin from billionaire Jeff Bezos and Virgin Galactic from billionaire Richard Branson.
In Blue Origin, a rocket is launched vertically and the capsule in which the passengers are located breaks off in flight when it reaches a height of 100 km before falling back to earth hanging from three parachutes.
Virgin Galactic uses a giant transport plane that takes off from a classic runway and carries another similar to a large private jet that disengages in one place and flies at supersonic speeds up to 50 miles. Then it goes down smoothly.
Either way, up to six passengers can get up from their seats to float and admire the curvature of the earth.
When will it be possible to fly?
Virgin Galactic announced the start of regular commercial operations in early 2022 after two final test flights. However, the line will be long: 600 tickets have already been sold.
The company plans to operate a maximum of 400 flights per year per space base.
Two people can participate in one of the first flights by drawing lots: Registration is possible until September 1st.
No exact schedule has been announced for Blue Origin. “We are planning two more flights this year,” after Jeff Bezos himself had carried out next Tuesday, “and many more in 2022,” said a spokeswoman for the AFP news agency.
Another option: take part in a reality show. The NASA-backed Space Hero program is expected to send the winner of the competition to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2023.
How much will it cost?
The first tickets sold by Virgin Galactic cost between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000 each. However, the company warned that the seats that will be sold in the future will be more expensive.
Blue Origin did not disclose a price, but a seat on the first manned flight sold for $ 28 million.
For much less (about $ 125,000 per person), you can board the Space Perspective spaceship: a 360-degree viewing capsule slowly hanging from a hot air balloon the size of a soccer stadium.
Despite the spectacular views, however, it will only reach 30 km in altitude and still be far from the limits of space and weightlessness. The 300 seats available for 2024, the year this attraction first launches, are all sold out, but reservations are available for 2025.
SpaceX – owned by another billionaire, Elon Musk – is also planning multi-day space tourism flights, albeit much more ambitiously.
The cost of traveling aboard the Falcon 9 rocket that powers the Dragon capsule is on the order of tens of millions of dollars.
In September, an Inspiration4 mission chartered by American tycoon Jared Isaacman is set to put him and three other passengers into orbit.
In January 2022, three business people will travel to the ISS with an experienced astronaut. The Ax-1 mission is being organized by Axiom Space, which has already signed three more future flights with SpaceX.
Musk’s company is also planning a four-person orbit trip organized by Space Adventures, the same person responsible for the flight of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the ISS in December, albeit aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket.