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Published:26 August 2001
Origin:Mars Society 26 August 2001 and Space 2002, 18 March 2002
Abstract:The May 2001 journey to the International Space Station (ISS) with passenger, Dennis Tito, brought sudden reality to space tourism. Tito showed the world, and especially NASA, that a civilian-trained astronaut could easily assume the rigors of space travel. Additionally, his trip confirmed the findings of several space-tourism market-research studies. These studies indicated that a valid space-tourist market indeed exists, even if it is at the lofty price of $20 million per person. Just as important, Tito's adventure struck a deathblow to the "giggle factor," which has plagued the space-tourism industry since its inception. However, neither the success of the Tito trip nor the market research indicating probable profitability for space tourism is sufficient on its own or together to propel the industry into daily reality.

While Tito demonstrated the viability of commercial space travel, it is yet to be determined whether the space-tourism industry can now develop into a viable and profitable economic entity. Proponents of developing commercial space travel and related businesses have often served as "their own worst enemies" by relying upon dramatic rhetoric and unsupported assumptions to champion their cause, rather than verifiable, factual, and responsible business planning. To help space business ventures overcome this problem, this paper will suggest ways to create a powerful business plan and presentation, both of which are essential for attracting financing and general business community support. These suggestions focus on key sections of the business plan addressing the specific needs of space tourism and related industries by explaining not only the purpose of the key section and what should be included in it, but also by explaining the steps the business should be taking in the planning stages in order to present a positive and powerful case to financiers and investors.

The true potential of space tourism will be realized when there is a growing market of millions of passengers paying a few thousand dollars, rather than a handful of wealthy individuals paying millions to visit low Earth orbit. A major barrier preventing affordable space access is that proponents of space tourism, while claiming the need for a passenger-certified, cost-effective reusable launch vehicle (RLV), have not fully integrated these new space-transport vehicles into their business plans. For example, these advocates usually only mention that an RLV is the vehicle of choice, rather than explaining what the RLV can do and how the RLV industry can work with the space tourism industry to help secure both as profitable industries. Additionally, the RLV industry initially distanced itself from the space-tourism market, placing its focus on the satellite-launch industry. Fortunately, this is finally changing with the realization of economic potential for space tourism when compared to the limited profitability presented in launching satellites. For the space-tourism market to realize this potential, building a cost-effective passenger RLV must be a priority. Additionally, a strategy for and relationship of cooperation between the RLV and space-tourism industries must be nurtured to effectively build and operate a safe and efficient fleet of RLVs.

Tito is more than just a symbol of momentous progress to the space-tourism industry. As a business and financial expert, he can also provide much-needed industry leadership and energy. While his contribution to space tourism is important, the industry must now do its share to ensure its own successful development. The discussion points and recommendations set forth in this paper are offered to facilitate meeting this challenge. They can also be useful in expediting developmental plans for sending people to Mars in the near future.

As a result of the terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001, the development of space tourism faces additional hurdles not previously considered. While predicting the full range of impact these attacks had upon the industry is not possible at this time, this paper highlights reasons why the development of space tourism should remain a priority, not just for industry advocates, but for all people across the globe. These reasons include the well-documented fact that seeing Earth from space has a positive transformative effect upon the viewers, as well as their circle of friends and associates. Additionally, after forty years in space, nations that were former adversaries are now partnering to strengthen efforts toward space development.

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