Space Tourism

Published 06/05/2013 by Neds Rocillo

Wow! I just realized last summer that vacation is not complete if people are not going to try new extreme adventures. Last summer our school organized a tour in Cebu wherein Crown Regency, a hotel which offers Sky Extreme Activities, is located. Since my friends and I are the adventurous type of people, we tried one of their extreme activities which is called Skywalk. When I tried it, I have felt that I was like walking in the outerspace but I’m not. Questions popped in my head; What if I’m an astronaut and I’ll be in space? How does it feels like to be weightless and flying because there is no gravity at all? And how does it feels like performing normal daily activities such as eating, sleeping, and exercising while in space?

During summer breaks I noticed that people are so fed up with overcrowded resorts with no room to move, then how about a real get-away-from-it-all vacation with plenty of space- in space?

I agree with what Abdul Nasser El Hakim, Curacao’s Minister of Economic Development, has said. He said that the saying ‘the sky is the limit’ is something of the past, thanks to the intelligent people and technology because after a long wait, we can now say that ‘the space is the limit’. Yes! Space Tourism seems closer to reality than ever before.

Space Tourism is a way of travelling to space for recreational, leisure or business purposes. Space tourism is one of the new modes of tourism that can be offered to travelers with deep pockets and an inkling toward space exploration and adventure. As of now, there have been advancements in flight that allow ordinary people (without any previous air force or space training) to see space and experience a whole new form of travel. Space tourism will be the most expensive trip one can ever have, because a ticket costs for about 200,000USD per person. For every space flight, one can experience weightlessness, floating in space, an overview of the curve Earth at the altitude of 100-160 kilometers. As of this moment, no suborbital flights has occured yet, but a week ago, Virgin Galactic, is ready for suborbital flights. As of this moment, there are almost 500 people who have signed up and are ready for their space adventure via Virgin Galactic. As of this moment, there are 5 well-known companies that will be offering commercial space flights, these are Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace, Project Enterprise, and Citizens in Space.

Space Tourism is not just about Suborbital flights, but also, there are plans already for the Space Stations, also known as the Space Hotels, for the passengers of suborbital flights. Just getting there will be adventurous in itself but it won’t exactly be a budget holiday. For my opinion regarding space tourism, It would be a dream come true to most of the people who are fascinated about the beauty of the space, at first, we all knew that only astronauts are licensed and are allowed to go to space, but now, the market for space tourism will be opened to the public in a short period of time. However, if space tourism became too dominant, it would harm our ozone layer since every take off to the space releases certain amount of chemical combustions and reactions that causes partial heat to the earth’s atmosphere. This is one of the cons of the space tourism, aside from its expensiveness.

People just want to have fun. According to a survey, people would spend their income on traveling and vacations than buying a new car. When it comes to business matter, it is a very good investment and starting point for gaining huge(very huge) profit, market share gain,etc. It is simply because it’s a new and interesting product or rather service to introduce to the market. Although it requires a huge capital to be able to perform all the necessity for this ‘tourist spot’, it will be an extravagant payoff. However, when you think of tourism, you should also be able to think of how wide your target market is. In this case, this is a very expensive tourist spot wherein billionaires can only afford. Well if outstanding quality wise, then i think it’s okay to put up this kind of business even though you know that it will not cater to many, but the price alone for let’s say just a number of tourists can already payoff your initial investment. But for quantity wise, it is not that accommodating because of the price, obviously. Especially in our era today, we are facing a lot of unstable economic situations to the extent that it is already hard for us to determine the financial status of each individual or even the companies/industries.

According to the Obama administration, Space tourism industry is expected to be worth $1 billion in 10 years. Which means it will help in the tourism industry. To experience space tourism, you have to have money. This means, even if there are only few people who can afford this so-called Space Tourism, the capital or the money invested by the companies like Virgin Galactic will still go back to them. Again I must say, it will still payoff. I’ve also read other articles regarding Space Tourism and according to a market studies, there is a possibility that by 2020, passenger numbers would reach 1million/year after 10 years of operation. Surely, Space Tourism will help in the growth of travel and tourism industry. This growth would be fueled by rising incomes, growing middle class populations, and commercial competitions between service providers to attract customers from around the world. We can predict that service prices will fall steadily as passenger numbers increase. If it happens, there will be a lot of business investors who will be interested and will invest in space tourism which is a positive impact on the industry. Space travel represents a huge potential market.

Such growth will also have interesting implications for the hotel industry. The plane or the spaceship has a ‘Space Hotel’ inside. Meaning, there will be staffs who will work as hotel staff and/or in Japan they call them ‘Space Tour Conductors’. They are expected to outnumber the government astronauts by hundreds-to-one by 2030.  Space tourism will give jobs and more opportunities for people working in hotel and tourism industry. In a more ambitious scenario, the hotel industry will boom in space. Who knows that after 30-50 years there might be resort hotels, entertainment complexes, and sport centres in space.

If I only have the money I am sure that space travel is on my “to-book-list vacation”. Who doesn’t want to see space, the stars near, and the earth from above? Speaking of booking or creating tour packages, space tourism has a different way of doing this. I visited Virgin Galactic’s website and I noticed the difference of a usual way of booking to the way of space booking. In a typical booking or creating tour packages, the customers are called tourists. The tourists will be given Itinerary. Itinerary is the route of a journey. On the other hand, Space Tourism Booking is different. The customers of space tourism are called Astronauts. The booking starts with the sentence “This is your first step to becoming an astronaut!”. The company have a different reservation options to suit the customer’s preferences on flight timing and amount of deposit required. All deposits are refundable. They will allow the customer to choose which tier and payment option is right for them; Pioneer Astronaut (earliest available seat), Voyager Astronaut (waiting list for a later seat), and they also have the Spaceship Charter. The Pioneer Astronaut has to deposit the full payment of US$200k. It is nearly sold out. The Voyager Astronaut hast to deposit US$20k and are still on the waiting list. The Spaceship Charter has to pay US$1 million but the customer will be able to bring 5 friends; 6 seats for the price of 5. In a typical booking, the travel agents are the ones who book the tours but in space tourism, they call their agents “Accredited Space Agents”.

Honestly, I don’t think that space tourism affects the idea and process of creating tour packages because they have different process and ways. Maybe in some ways, it will affect travel agencies. For instance, a customer from Japan booked for a space travel with Virgin Galactic, he or she will be invited to events and holidays prepared by the company. I don’t think that it’s for free so the person has to work on a tour or at least buy a ticket in a travel agent. And also, before the space travel the customers/consumers have to undergo some training, obviously, it will help again in the hotel and tourism industry. The customers has to stay in a hotel while they are being trained by the space tourism company. Space tourism will open up a brand new market in the tourism industry and will give tourists more choices of destination travel. Travelers will be happy to know that they have more choices of destination and that they can even go to space if they want to. I don’t think that space tourism will grow fast in the a short period of time. Space tourism are being marketed and sold to research organizations, educational institutes and to those who want to conduct an experiment. The desire to travel in space is not recent. In fact, a movie entitled Space Odyssey from 1968 has shown tourists traveling to the moon and also a multimillionaire named Dennis Tito was the first tourist in space.

If the phrase “the next big thing” means it will be popular, my answer to the last question is yes. I am sure that space tourism will be popular; bloggers will blog about it, people on twitter and facebook will talk about it, and the media will report about it. However, if it means that a lot of people will consume it, my answer is no. In my opinion, space tourism will be the next trend in tourism or I must say that it will be next big thing for rich people. Not just “rich” but it’s for billionaires and elites. Not all people can afford this kind of tourism, only those who are in Class A can. As of now i don’t think it would be the next big thing because of the cost. Not everyone is prepared to spend a lot of money and only few people can take up the offer. although in the long run, when technological advancements have been made, we can expect the cost to go down and maybe that time, space tourism can go big.

According to Futron Corporation, the industry leader in forecasting space-related markets and provides powerful insights in Space Tourism market, although space tourism has many positive impacts, it is also fraught with realities that may limit the size of the potential market. First of all, space travel is not for everyone. This is not because the tourists can’t afford but it is because space travel could be stressful. The stresses of launch and reentry, the effects of exposure to micro gravity, and confinement inside a relatively small vehicle can challenge the health of even the fittest individual. Intense medical testing is needed before the trip, even professional astronauts and cosmonauts undergo medical testing. Second, training time must be considered. A leisure traveler should complete a training before being allowed to fly. Lastly, the price. It is the greatest limiting factor in this activity. But nothing is impossible with technology. Because of technology, we have seen how some of the world’s most exclusive destinations have opened up to the masses.

For some reasons, I don’t want it to be the next big thing in tourism wherein a lot of people will try it. Yes, it might be fun and unique but how is this suppose to be good for our earth? It will destroy our planet, the ozone layer in particular. I also think that it is ‘somehow’ unfair. It is unfair for qualified astronauts who were not able to go to space just because NASA funds are not enough. Personally, I don’t believe that a person deserves a chance to go to space just because he or she has hundreds of millions of dollars. A person deserves to go to space when he or she has gone through years of schooling to reach his or her dreams to become an astronaut.

Space travel is a very risky activity. We don’t know what might happen. The traveler will pay hundred and millions of dollars to have fun but what if something happened? What if a problem occurs while they are on their journey?? How will these space companies save the space travelers if they are million miles away?

I asked my friends if they want Space Tourism and/or they want to try space travel and ALL of them answered yes. I don’t get it. At first, I also wanted to try the “Space Travel” but I realized how bad it will be for our earth. Travelers could have fun by spending time with their family and friends here on earth. Why don’t they just go to the beach and chill? After all, spending time with your family and friends is the best thing, right?  If you will also think of it, the money that the space travelers’ will use can help in our economy in different ways. They can invest in new business in different parts of the world. Whatever I say, the decision is still on the traveler. Definitely, people have different reasons as to why they would have an interest in traveling to space. Maybe some of them wants to see the Earth from space. Maybe it is a lifelong dream or maybe it is because of ‘Space Enthusiasm’. Some might also want to do something that not everyone can do since space tourism is currently limited to those with substantial amount of money to spend on such exclusive experiences.

Nowadays, we have to be practical. If you are going to use your money just to experience to be weightless that is not practical at all. Spending US$200,000 for a space travel is not practical. Nowadays, it is very very important that people make sensible decision and choices. Despite the wealth and all, people must always be practical about money. But so many people have never been to space and wanted to go there. I guess, if space companies are able to lower the price to something more affordable, then space tourism has a future.

However, I still can’t accept the fact that people are willing to pay for leisure and not think of the planet at all. The willingness to take part in such an experience is quite strong. Space travelers are willing to pay for space travel but are they aware of the negative impacts that this activity has on our planet? Virgin Galactic has already collected about $60 million. A survey is released by a space company to ask respondents about their willingness to pay ticket for a space travel, 16 percent of the respondents accepted the ticket price. This is a sad thing for me because as the demand for flight increased, the price decreased which is a sign that more traveler would be eventually engaged in this activity. If this happens, space travel will became too dominant. People are insane because they want to be literally out of this world.

It is funny because to tell you honestly, I don’t know if I want to travel in space or not. I’m not sure. When I think of how the space looks like, I want to try it. To have the opportunity to experience what only astronaut and cosmonauts have experienced is priceless. On the other hand, whenever I imagined that the ozone layer of the earth is being destroyed little by little by the launch of rocketships, it just breaks my heart. In a typical tour, the tourists mainly come to see the scenery and wildlife, so there is pressure to conserve habitats and wildlife. This is almost the same with space travel, we are going to destroy the earth if we pursue this kind of tourism. We can’t even save our planet from global warming. No wonder people wouldn’t care about it anymore. The government knows the negative impact but still they allow it for the sake of having money. The lyrics of the song entitled Price Tag is wrong. It says ‘it’s not about the money.’ but we all know that “It is about the money.”. With money, you can do anything even the choice of going to space.

I’m not sure but I think space flights may have an impact on the environment, but this could be eliminated over time as “green” technology introduces itself to the spacecraft technology. Well, I hope that this “green” technology works so we don’t have to worry about our planet anymore. Since the green technology has not been released let us keep in mind that space tourists could speed up global warming.

What I am saying is that in space tourism, there are lots of things that space companies and NASA should take into considerations; safety, scale of operations, management within fragile environment, cost, demand, and impacts.

I can’t imagine that after 30-50 years, space will be the new holiday destination. Eitherway, they already offered it in the market so only time will tell if it will sink or swim.

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