5 November 2001
- Tourism (Good)
The Journey Is the Destination
A Grand Ocean Voyage in Space
by G B Leatherwood
by G. B. Leatherwood

We fly for a variety of reasons, and mine have included business, family visits, traveling to a seaport for an ocean cruise, and other vacations. Most of the trips required layovers and changing planes, often more than once, in order to get from Point A to Point B.

Space travel, at least for the foreseeable future, will be quite different. For one thing, the International Space Station ( ISS) is presently the only habitat in space. If plans for a space hotel materialize, there may be as many as two, count ?em, two, destinations. In the lifetime of persons born this year, there may be more and perhaps even a place on the moon to stay. However even in the most ambitious and optimistic views, our choices of destinations will be extremely limited.

A closer analogy than the current airline comparison might be an ocean vacation cruise. You board the totally self-contained ship and sail away for a day, several days, or even several months. Stops are made along the way at interesting ports of call, but you need not ever leave the ship. Food, shelter, entertainment, medical assistance, and other real or perceived needs are provided for the duration of the trip.

A space tourist ship will be self-contained, and the journey will be as important as the destination. In fact, in some scenarios, the journey will be the destination. You may go to a spaceport, board a Single Stage To Orbit ( SSTO) vehicle, lift off, circle the earth for a certain number of revolutions, then come back, land. After that, you can go back home having experienced the thrill of weightlessness and seen "the big blue marble" as it can only be seen from space, with a sunrise and sunset every ninety minutes.

In another scenario, one may go to the ISS, participate in a variety of activities for several days to a couple of weeks, then return with enough pictures to keep the family, neighbors, and friends entertained for years. In sum, ocean ships and space ships are very much alike, especially since the purpose is nearly the same.

Compare the price of a vacation on a cruise ship with the likely price of a trip to the ISS. As Mr. Tito's trip reportedly cost around US$20 million, you might find the cost of the trip to space beyond your vacation budget.

Ocean cruise travel, once restricted to the wealthy, are now within the reach of about seven million people each year. When more trips to space are undertaken, the cost will come down.

So instead of comparing space tourism with commercial passenger airline travel, let us think in terms similar to taking a cruise on a luxury ocean liner. Instead of thinking of space travel only for the purposes of adventure, exploration, or science, let us think of space tourism as a grand vacation trip.

I know I do.
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G B Leatherwood 5 November 2001
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