27 March 2009
- Tourism (Good)
The End...?
Or just the beginning?
by G B Leatherwood
Dr. Simonyi is currently on his second trip to space, which is the seventh civilian trip brokered by US company Space Adventures. However, it will be the last for civilian space explorers for the foreseeable future. Due to expansion of the International Space Station ( ISS) crew from three to six starting in April, there will be no extra seats aboard the Soyuz capsules for non-professional space travelers.

In a press release dated 27 March 2009, Eric Anderson, Space Adventures CEO said at the Baikonur launch site, “There’s nobody confirmed (to be the next space tourist) but things can change, it’s an unpredictable situation.” The Russian-born founder of the search engine Google, Sergey Brin, has put down a deposit for a future flight, and Anderson said “He’s not confirmed when he will fly but he’s in line. We have several others we’re talking to; we have people from all over the world, people who take the long view.”

In an article, “The First Era of Space Tourism Coming To An End,” posted on Space-Travel.com on 27 March 2009, writers point out that “…dreams of opening space travel for general tourism remain in the realm of science fiction. All those who have gone into space as tourists have been super rich who have undergone months of training.” To make matters worse, the current worldwide economic struggles dampen the enthusiasm of even the most optimistic—not including Mr. Anderson, though.

Does this signal the end of private citizen space travel?

Not at all, even though there are discouraging developments in the space programs themselves, with the doubling of the ISS crew and the retirement of the US space shuttle, which will leave the US wholly dependent on Russia for manned launches.

Anderson has said that Space Adventures is already talking about renting a space capsule that could take two civilians into space along with a professional commander. An initial agreement has already been signed with the Russian space agency Roskosmos and missions could start as early as 2012.

“We’d provide additional Soyuz missions,” Anderson said. “It’s something that would be beneficial to the ISS by bringing additional supplies.”

Then comes the most revealing statement of all: “Looking ahead,” he said, “partnerships other than with the Russian space agency are feasible, with China and India pressing ahead with their own space programs. My belief is within a decade there will be five or six different ways to go to orbit. There’ll be competition and there’ll be a lot of people who will have the ability to fly in space. We’re trying to work with all of them.”

And it should be apparent that friendly competition between governments, especially those encouraging private entrepreneurs, will mean that the US dominance of space technology will continue to diminish.

This could mean the emergence of space tourism worldwide on a scale proponents of the business have been predicting for years, and could signal huge new opportunities for those ready to take an out-of-this-world adventure.
Share |
G B Leatherwood 27 March 2009
Please send comments, critiques and queries to feedback@spacefuture.com.
All material copyright Space Future Consulting except as noted.