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21 February 1998
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Space Tourism in two more Space News articles
The "unthinkable" gradually enters the mainstream
by Patrick Collins
Until recently pointedly ignored by the "space establishment", the subject of space tourism continues to get discussed more and more seriously and frequently. In the February 9-15 issue of Space News it appeared in two separate articles.

In an opinion piece "Public Relations Agent Glenn" graduate student Jud Ready argued that the plan for John Glenn to visit space again this autumn on board the space shuttle will have a good effect on public support for space activities. The article argued that this will occur by attracting a lot of positive media coverage both because of John Glenn's fame and because of his age, and continued "That, in turn, stimulates the infant space tourism industry a bit, though not enough to actually get it off the ground, and people across the world start believing that they too can fly in space."

Certainly, seeing a 76 year old person flying safely to and from space should help to nail the widespread myth that going to low Earth orbit is somehow "stressful" so that only unusually fit people can go. (In fact, lying down, 3G acceleration is like having a heavy book like a telephone directory on your chest - and zero G is so relaxing that most people sleep only a few hours a night in orbit!)

In the same issue, in "Newsmaker Forum", Representative Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, California) was asked the question "When do you think can we expect to see a viable space tourism industry?" He answered "Once we lower the cost of getting to space. There are large numbers of people on this planet who would pay for a trip into orbit or for a trip that would get them to a destination faster than a regular aeroplane. Some people might be willing to spend $50,000 or $100,000 to take a scenic tour of Earth for a day. Others might be willing to pay $20,000 for an up-and-down flight from Tokyo to New York if it got them there in two hours rather than 15 hours."

Quite so. Though, by analogy with the limited demand for Concorde flights, demand for high-speed sub-orbital travel seems likely to be a much smaller market than flights to and from orbit, which offers unique entertainment possibilities not obtainable on Earth. In addition, fast flight schedules between places roughly 12 hours apart like Tokyo and New York are not convenient: you either have two days in a row, or two nights!
Source: Space News, Feb 9-15

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Patrick Collins 21 February 1998
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