Picture this: a planned vacation, flight information and ticket in hand, luggage in tow, camera dangling from your neck like any typical tourist, wishing your lucky stars for adventure, a brief farewell before taking off to… Space?
Soon, this could be a reality, according to British billionaire, Richard Branson. Branson owns Virgin Group which is a collection of over 400 companies, including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Records, and, now, Virgin Galactic. Branson has it, in his plan, to make space travel a tourist attraction.
The world’s first spaceport is nearing completion in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The taxpayer funded project cost nearly a quarter of a billion dollars and purposes to launch adventurers into space for a fee of 200,000 dollars.
Branson claims to have over 500 people already signed up to participate, as tourists, in the venture but is failing to convince companies devoted to space research to take part and invest in the project.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic is the anchor of the New Mexico project, but the venture is hoping to attract more tenants to further its growth and success. Currently, only two rocket companies have committed themselves to the project, while others remain unsure of its viability.
Some believe that the commercialization of space travel will not catch on for nearly a decade, deterring them from getting involved. Alex Ignatiec physics professor at the University of Houston claims, “Right now, the industry is not there to support it.” Despite the attraction of such a venture, affordability and accessibility play a major role in its potential success or failure.
Others claim business and government legislature are deterrents because they are refusing to exempt spacecraft suppliers from any liability if something were to go wrong. During the initial development of the Spaceport, a law was passed exempting it from liability should there be any issues, but the parts suppliers, at this point are still liable for any problems.
The first flight is estimated to launch in late 2013, at the earliest, but with the lagging production and support, this estimate is heavily questioned. It is also estimated that as many as 200,000 people would visit the futuristic Spaceport per year, necessitating the existence of hotels in the rural desert space, which are currently not there.
Despite the attraction of such a venture, its success is yet to be determined. What would formerly be considered as unattainable, space tourism is finally within grasp. After the logistics are sorted out, it is only a matter of time and money before we are able to take a weekend trip to the stars.