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Space Future has been on something of a hiatus of late. With the concept of Space Tourism steadily increasing in acceptance, and the advances of commercial space, much of our purpose could be said to be achieved. But this industry is still nascent, and there's much to do. this space.
9 December 2010
Updated "What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" to the 2009 revision.
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Practical Tourism in Space

The World Travel Tourism Council estimates that 1995 revenues for tourism worldwide was $3.4 trillion.1 The city of Orlando, Florida has one of the largest tourism centers in the United States, including Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Sea World. In a recent economic impact study, Orlando received an economic impact of $13.1 billion in 1995 from theme parks, hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers.2

NASA's 1994 Commercial Space Transport Study points to a potential for great profit for those who would make tourism in space safe and practical. Space tourism would fit into the category of "exotic" or "adventure" vacations. Opportunities such as climbing Mount Everest and taking a world cruise also fit in these categories. "Adventure" tourism for 1993 was $324 billion and growing.3

Several new companies have formed to tap into nascent space tourism market, such as LunaCorp moon rover project,4 but they have had limited success. What space tourism needs is the involvement of a major tourism or entertainment company to legitimize the industry. This abstract will discuss the first steps that company needs to take to spur growth in the space tourism industry. While no single travel agency has the resources to create a new market, there are several major entertainment companies that do. Walt Disney World, MCA/Universal, Paramount, Time/Warner are just a few examples. Any one of these organizations could profit greatly from the public relations stirred up by a space tourism venture.

This paper will discuss two projects which a major entertainment or tourism corporation could get involved in immediately. First, cross-industry communication can be initiated through conferences between leaders of the hotel, tourism, entertainment, aerospace and other industries. Second, the dream of recreational space travel can be brought closer to reality through a phased approach, starting with sponsorship of the X-Prize contest, by developing simulator rides and virtual reality shows based on actual space projects, and soliciting bids for constructing space cruise ships and an orbital hotel.


While researching for this paper, this author discussed the space tourism concept to a representative of a major entertainment company based in Orlando, Florida. He expressed great interest in these ideas, but was concerned with issues such as revenue generation, demographics of the tourists, and other expenses.

In 1994, a comprehensive market survey on space tourism was conducted in Japan by the Japanese Rocket Society ( JRS). Over 3,000 people responded to the survey. Using a conservative estimate, if a ticket for an orbital flight cost in the range of $12,000 and $24,000 a piece, the "world demand for orbital tourism services could reach a level of more than ... $12 billion per year (in 1994 U.S. dollars)."5 Tom Rogers, president of the Space Transportation Association in the USA, points out that Japan is a relative newcomer to the space transportation arena.6 "Japan, therefore does not have as great an historical inertia to deal with as does the United States" with space matters. The Japanese society has a less restricted perception of the challenge of space development and is more receptive to new space ideas than American society. In the United States, "our aerospace industry, and our space-responsible Congressional and Executive Branch offices, are having a difficult time coming to grips with such ... new 'conditions' after conducting the space transportation business ... for some 40 years under quite different institutional and financial circumstances."7 The Association has recently initiated a similar tourism study with NASA for the United States.

Mr. Rogers presented the following data to compare revenues and expenses of a commercial space vehicle with a commercial jet aircraft:8

Table 1.
Wide-Bodied Commercial Jet Aircraft Space Transportation Vehicles
Number Produced or to be Produced 1000 50
Price per vehicle (in hundreds of million Yen)* 200 ¥1000 ¥
Trips per year 720 300
Useful Lifetime(years) 20 10
Per Vehicle, per Trip
Amortization Cost (in tens of thousands of Yen)** 220 ¥4300 ¥
Cost of Fuel (in tens of thousands of Yen) 200 ¥1600 ¥
Miscellaneous Costs (in tens of thousands of Yen) 200 ¥2000 ¥
Total Cost (in tens of thousands of Yen) 620 ¥7900 ¥
Passengers 300 50
Cost per Passenger (in tens of thousands of Yen) 2.1 ¥160 ¥
Passengers per year 200 million 750,000
Gross Revenues per Year 4200 billion ¥ 1200 billion ¥
*100 ¥ = about $1 U.S. (December, 1994)
**Assumes a 5% per year cost of capital in Japan. (The cost of capital for this kind of activity is some 3x higher in the United States.)
Cross-Industry Conferences

The first step is communication. Meetings between the leaders of the tourism, entertainment, hotel, aerospace, and other industries can be sponsored by a company with the clout to be taken seriously. These discussions must start at a very high level. (This author has attended several aerospace conferences, and can vouch for the fact that the events tend to bore non-technical people, or scare them away with the technical jargon.) Issues to be discussed would include: who would pay for a trip into space? How much estimated profit could be gained? What are the costs versus the benefits of doing space tourism/entertainment? Are there better alternative activities, such as simulators or virtual reality? What would be the estimated tourist traffic? Can the ticket prices be set low enough to attract the most people? Is it safe? Is it reliable?

Some tentative answers to these questions have been given in the preceding paragraphs, but they still need to be fine-tuned. After these questions have been answered, the groundwork for communication will be established.

Space Tourism, like any other industry, requires a broad infrastructure in place before it can become practical. The following is a sample list of conference topics and the industries that need to be represented as part of the Space Tourism Infrastructure:

Topic 1: Getting People's Attention
  • Advertising/Public Relations - how to build public interest, edutainment
  • Entertainment - rides, shows, getting movie stars to promote space, training people
  • Marketing - market surveys, demographics
  • Media - motion picture and commercials done in space (for example, the Pepsi commercial that was recently filmed on the Russian space station MIR.)9
  • Tour Groups - audience analysis, places of interest, logistics, activities to do while in space
Topic 2: Technical Issues
  • Aerospace - latest technology, feasibility, present launch systems, R&D, latest projects, logistics
  • Airlines - operational aspects, minimum number flights, cost per flight, amortization of vehicle costs, logistics
  • Astronauts - experience, what a tourist needs to expect, minimum training
  • Construction - R&D, construction in space techniques, projects
  • Doctors - medical issues, minimum health requirements, flight certification
  • Hotels - minimum accommodations, services people expect, creature comforts
  • NASA - present launch capability, history, feasibility, technological breakthroughs
Topic 3: Legal, Insurance, Investing
  • Banks - investments, rate of return, cost/benefit analysis, high risk but high profile
  • Insurance - costs, risks, liability, minimum/maximum insured, who pays?
  • Lawyers - liability, legal issues, local laws, national laws, international laws, treaties, new laws pending

Once these groups get together, it is recommended that special interest groups be established between industries with common goals. For example: entertainment, hotel and tourism companies can work together on the requirements for a space hotel, and aerospace and construction companies can propose different designs. The groups work out the details of cost, safety, reliability, comfort, amenities, and entertainment.

Patrick Collins, a researcher for Japanese space organizations stated in a 1994 article from the Journal of Practical Applications in Space that a space hotel would be much easier to design and build than the U.S./international space station. The reason is simple: no fancy scientific equipment is needed, and little government bureaucracy is required.10

A Space Cruise Ship

The closest tourism analogy to recreational space travel is the cruise ship industry.11 Both require expensive investments and require the support of many people. They also have similar infrastructure (for example, harbor = launch facility). Cruise ships, like airlines, are profitable only when they have many paying passengers. This implies that a space cruise ship would be required to handle a large number of passengers to make a profit.

While there have been several attempts at developing a low cost, reusable space vehicle (the X-30 Orient Express and the Delta Clipper Experimental, for example) all of these projects were government funded, and dependent on the government as prime customer. Several new companies have started developing reusable space vehicles without government support, such as Advent Launch Services,12 Kistler Space Company,13 and Kelly Space & Technology.14 This new generation of launch companies are seeking private sector investment in their technology, and are looking for customers for their first flights.

The X-Prize is an international contest that is offering $10 million to the first person or organization that successfully builds and flies a vehicle that carries three passengers to an altitude of 100 kilometers and back, twice.15 The X-prize hails back to the days of the aviation prizes of the early 20th century, an especially the Orteig International Prize, which inspired Charles Lindbergh for his flight from New York to Paris. Prizes are great incentives for innovation. Even though the original Orteig prize was $25,000, over $400,000 was spent to win the prize. The X-prize seeks to find that Charles Lindbergh of space with a $10 million award for the first individual or organizations that can fly into suborbital space and back twice with the same vehicle and with three passengers. None of the entries can can be government sponsored or funded. Right now the X-prize is looking for sponsors of all types to help promote the program worldwide.

How to Get There From Here in Four Easy Steps

Since there are no space cruise ships available at the present time, a phased approach is recommended. Makoto Nagamoto of the JRS presented guidelines for space tourism development which is the basis for the Space Tourism Study Program.16 This author has modified Mr. Nagamoto's phased approach to space transportation, and applied the phases to practical activities an entertainment company can achieve in the near term (less than 10 years).

First, sponsorship of the X-prize is critical. With the recent publicity of the successful DC-XA test flights on June 6 and 8, 1996, more organizations (such as McDonnell Douglas) will attempt to win the prize for the publicity.

Second, theme parks, rides and exhibits can be developed to educate the public about new space endeavors. The public has always been interested in space. The popularity of science fiction shows such as the Star Wars movies or the Star Trek series have a broad appeal. Shows such as "Star Tours" at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, "Back to the Future" at Universal Studios, and "Space Mountain" at Walt Disney World, in Orlando, Florida combine the public's interest in space with adventure rides. The FuturePort experience park being built in Long Beach, California is an example of an entire theme park devoted to space for entertainment.17 The first phase will open in 1999 at a cost of $169 million. "Based on conventional theme park development estimates, should the FuturePort attract 2,000,000 visitors in the first year, then the warranted investment could be as high as $200,000,000."18

A possible low end space tourism option for an entertainment company is to get involved with the LunaCorp Lunar Rover Project. LunaCorp was formed in 1989 by a group of ex-NASA officials, businessmen, and space activists with the common goal of finding non-traditional funding mechanisms for space exploration and development. In 1999, LunaCorp will send two rovers to the moon. One rover will be controlled by tourist by remote control using a virtual reality system, and the other can be used by paying scientists. The rovers are being built by the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.19 Dr. "Red" Whittaker is the world's foremost large mobile robotics engineer, with robots such as Dante II, which descended into Alaska's Mount. Spurr volcano in 1994; and NASA's Ambler prototype walking robot for Mars. This program is sponsored by Mitsubishi Corporation and is looking to fly in a modified Japanese H-2 rocket.20

LunaCorp is planning to set up exhibits and shows based on its rovers. This project is perfect for a simulator ride. Once the rovers are on the moon, a tourist could control the robot and see the robot in action. With the involvement of an entertainment company, more rovers could be developed so that more people can "play" on the moon.

Third, with the publicity of the X-Prize winner as momentum, the entertainment company can start soliciting proposals for space cruise ships carrying twenty passengers for three hour orbital tours. The JRS and Kawasaki Heavy Industries already have designs for such a vehicle.21 Gary Hudson, the rocket pioneer from Pacific American Launch Systems, Inc., famous for his Phoenix Single Stage to Orbit ( SSTO) launch vehicle concept, is now developing ROTON, a vehicle that flies into the upper atmosphere like a helicopter then switches to rockets to reach low earth orbit.22 These vehicles do not require state-of-the-art technologies, but rather commercial off the shelf equipment for most of their construction. Also, the competitors for NASA's X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle Program (Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, and Rockwell) could apply their technologies to a commercial tourist transport.

Fourth, after several successful flights of the passenger cruise ships, the entertainment company can start soliciting proposals for a space hotel. Shimizu Corporation is one of the largest construction companies in Japan. In 1987, it opened a Space Project office and was the first construction company to develop the design and construction of extraterrestrial space structures. With their experience in the terrestrial construction market, including hotels, dams, and nuclear power plants, the company has been developing new techniques and technologies for space exploration and development. Shimizu has been doing advanced research on space stations, space factories, lunar bases and rocket launch facilities.23


The time has come to bring space access to the public. The demand for space tourism exists, and the first company to develop the market will reap millions of dollars in profit. Several lesser-known organizations have started to develop niche markets, but have had limited success on their own. What is needed is an organization with the vision, creativity, and the financial resources to tap those niche markets, sponsor some while contracting others, and develop a fun and entertaining commercial space industry that will make space travel practical and commonplace.

Works Cited
  1. Orlando & Orange County Travel and Visitor's Bureau. |Return|
  2. Orlando & Orange County Travel and Visitor's Bureau. |Return|
  3. Commercial Space Transportation Study, NASA's Langley Research Center. May 1994. p. 205. |Return|
  4. David, Leonard. "LunaCorp Looks for Route to Moon via Japan." Space News. June 10-16, 1996. p. 20. |Return|
  5. Rogers, T. F. "Space Tourism: The Perspective from Japan and some Implications for the United States." Journal of Practical Applications in Space. Vol. VI, No. 2, Winter 1995. p. 117. |Return|
  6. Rogers, 112. |Return|
  7. Rogers, 112. |Return|
  8. Rogers, 119. Originally, this data was presented in a slightly different form by Patrick Collins, Visiting Researcher of Japanese Space Organizations in the Journal of Practical Applications in Space, Vol. V, No. 4, p. 285. |Return|
  9. "The Doors of Space Open to Madison Avenue," Atlanta, PRNewswire, April 2, 1996. |Return|
  10. Collins, Patrick, "Towards Commercial Space Travel," Journal of Practical Applications in Space, Vol. 5, No. 4, Summer 1994, p. 288. |Return|
  11. Commercial Space Transportation Study, p. 198. |Return|
  12. Advent Launch Services WWW page: <> |Return|
  13. Kistler Space Company WWW page: <> |Return|
  14. Kelly Space & Technology WWW page: <> |Return|
  15. " Prize Money to Stir Spirit," Space News, p. 37, April 8-14, 1996. |Return|
  16. Nagamoto, Makoto. "On the JRS Space Tourism Study Program." Journal of Practical Applications in Space, Vol. V, No. 4. Summer 1994. pp. 299-306. |Return|
  17. FuturePort, Inc. Project Introduction. Corporate Synopsis and Private Placement Memorandum. April 1996. |Return|
  18. FuturePort, Inc., p. 24 |Return|
  19. "Welcome to the LunaCorp Home Page." WWW page: <> |Return|
  20. David, Leonard. "LunaCorp Looks for Route to Moon via Japan." Space News. June 10-16, 1996. p. 20. |Return|
  21. Kohki Isozaki, Akira Taniuchi, Koichi Yonemoto, Hiroshige Kikukawa, Tomoko Maruyama, Tatsuro Asai, and Koichi Murakami. "Vehicle Design for Space Tourism." Space Energy and Transportation (formerly Journal for Practical Applications in Space). Vol. 1, No. 1, 1996. pp. 33-46. |Return|
  22. Hudson, Gary C. "Insanely Great - or just Plain Insane?" WIRED. Vol. 4.05, May 1996. pp. 128-132. |Return|
  23. "Space Project", Shimizu Corporation brochure, 1992. |Return|
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