The main problem about space is how much it costs to get there: it's too expensive! And that's mainly because launch vehicles are expendable - either entirely, like satellite launchers, or partly, like the space shuttle.

So we need reusable launch vehicles. The trouble is that these will not only reduce the cost of launch - they'll also put the makers out of business, unless there's more to launch than just a few satellites a year, as there are today.

Fortunately there's a market that will generate far more launch business than satellites ever well - passenger travel. Market Research has shown that the idea of space tourism is very very popular. And so, just like aviation, the launch industry is going to find that most of its business will be carrying passengers.

But this idea of Space Tourism isn't at all familiar to most people, including the space industry, who are used to the idea that space is for research or military activities. Few people are aware of how much work has been done to show that tourism is a realistic goal, and how rapidly this work is now progressing.

Once travel to orbit becomes a commercial service, the question of how to get to space will be mainly one of saving up for a ticket - or looking for work in one of the many space hotels that will be built. Space offers unique pleasures including the view, and zero gravity activities that provide a whole range of things to do on an orbital holiday - including space sports.

Importantly, and contrary to what many people assume, the space agencies are not at all interested in space tourism, and are not trying to bring it about. This is a pity because space activities will never be profitable until tourism services begin, remaining small-scale, expensive, and dependent on taxes which come from you - which would you prefer?

29 July 2012
Added "Space Debris and Its Mitigation" to the archive.
16 July 2012
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.
7 December 2008
"What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" is now the top entry on Space Future's Key Documents list.
30 November 2008
Added Lynx to the Vehicle Designs page.
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Activities in Space
"What is there to do in orbit?" Or, as some of the "real" space industry guys have said "Why would anyone want to go to orbit? There's nothing there - no air, no shops - it's just cold, dark nothing" (except when it's scorching bright nothing, as it were.....)

Amazing, isn't it? These guys are in charge of the greatest fun-fair ride in the solar system - and they can't even see it! Luckily most people are much smarter than this, and know that space is a playground of unique things to do, that are impossible on Earth. To keep it simple we can say that the fun of living in orbit boils down to two main ideas - the view, and zero gravity. That sounds a bit limited, so let's look at each in turn.

Yes - It's Round!

In questionnaires, the first thing that most people say they want to do in orbit is to look at the Earth. That's because it's a very very beautiful sight. "The Earth is blue" Gagarin said. "Earth is the planet of sea and clouds" Akiyama said. And the view at any time certainly depends on the local weather below you, but it's continually changing as you go right round the Earth every 90 minutes or so. And provided you're in a high inclination orbit (that is one which is at a large angle to the equator, and so goes over places at high latitudes) then you get to see most of the Earth as it rotates below you.

The sights are pretty well limitless, from the extremes of nature - deserts and mountains, jungles and plains, ice-pack and whirling storms - to the night-time view of the human-made world - cities, oil-field gas-flares and fishing-fleets. There are also interesting natural views at night too - parts of the globe flicker continually with lightning storms, and you may be lucky enough to see a volcano, forest fire or the aurora: seen from above, it's said to be like floating through giant fronds of light.

Looking out from Earth is also spectacular. According to those who have been to orbit, the stars don't twinkle in space (because there's no atmosphere between you and them) - they're much brighter and "closer", and their colours are clearer. And we mustn't forget that everyone who's been to space so far has been busy, with limited time to spend looking out of the windows. And their windows weren't designed for gazing - yet they still say that the view is amazing.

So imagine a picture window, say, 1 meter across, and you and some friends are lounging in front of it, with drinks in your hands, and just passing the time with this view rolling by in front of you. And you can float round the window in any direction and you can look east, west, north or south and see the stars beyond the Earth's rim... Somewhat better than looking at a picture book.

Evolution in Action

But to get the full flavour of what it will feel like to look down at the Earth from a panoramic window in a hotel lounge - or in a space-suit outside - you have to stand back and look at the present stage of human history in its cosmic background and think of its significance. We humans have evolved on this tiny little planet literally out on the rim of "our" galaxy. It's taken the Earth about 5 billion years, and most of the time this evolution was pretty leisurely. For example, for about a billion years there were just slimy things, and then another billion years or so of fishes, plants and creepy-crawly things. Then once things got moving on the land the dinosaurs were crashing around the place for 150 million years (!) before a huge chunk of rock smashed into the Earth, plunged the place into a freezing night, and wiped them out (scientists are still arguing about the details).

That gave some little tree-living mammals their big chance - and they took it, growing into a whole range of new species, including apes - small, nifty animals which were clever with their hands. Then about 60 million (!) years later a bunch of apes living on the north coast of Africa took to eating shell-fish and swimming a good deal of the time. Like other swamp-living monkeys are doing today, they learned to walk upright. And like a number of other mammals that had taken to the sea before them these monkeys also learned to control their breathing - and then finally to talk.

This mixture was a considerable success! And these walking talking monkeys gradually spread throughout Africa, and then out to Europe and Asia, and then to every possible living place in the entire world - from sweltering jungles to the northern ice-pack, from mountains to marshes, from deserts to the tiniest Pacific islands. Compared to the earlier rate of evolution on Earth, it took them no time at all to discover agriculture and then engineering - enabling them to travel over the seas and through the atmosphere, and to talk and see each other wherever they were.

Call us what you like - the talking animal, the "conscious" animal, the property-owning animal - we're also certainly the animal that spreads out. And now we've reached the next stage, and we're moving on again - just because there's nowhere new left to go on Earth. And this time, the new place we're going to is one zillion times bigger than the whole of the Earth, and we're just on the absolute threshold of literally exploding out through the galaxy...

THAT's what makes looking down at the Earth and out towards space so rivetting. We're looking down on the cradle of this amazing life-form that we are, spinning in the midst of infinite space, and looking out at the galaxy where our descendants are going to spread and have adventures that we can only faintly guess at today. Even for those who don't feel the urge to go on and out themselves, there's a deep fascination in just looking out at it.....

Throughout human history there have been those who've stayed behind, and those who've moved on. And it's "horses for courses" - many, if not most people will stay on the Earth - but some of the human race are going to move on. And you only have to look briefly at human history to see the dynamic economic and cultural effects that discovering new territories also has for the people who stay behind - and who finance the pioneers, among other things! The Roman empire, the British empire, the New World all greatly enriched not only the pioneers, but also the existing economic centers of the day. It's going to be the same again - just as soon as some big business can get started in space to pay back the investment. And that day is surprisingly close now.

Zero Gravity

Okay, so much for the view! Being, living in zero gravity is a new world - literally. Ordinary activities, even just moving around, are all transformed in weightlessness. Simply floating slowly around lets you play all sorts of games - like trying to float precisely across the room and pick something up without bumping into anything else. The 9 US astronauts who lived (in teams of 3) on board the first US space station, Skylab (which was much more spacious than either the Space Shuttle or Mir) back in 1973-4 said that they couldn't resist making acrobatic movements, somersaults, spins and so on, whenever they had to move some distance, seeing if they could spin and still land right on their feet - kind of like an Olympic gymnast, but at low speed!

You'll be able to practise in your own room, and going along the corridors - there're going to be some collisions, I guess (maybe there'll have to be speed limits) and in dedicated zero-gravity play-rooms. Once hotels get started they're surely going to add more and more, larger and larger chambers to them because guests will find them more and more entertaining as the possibilities increase . And once these rooms get to be 10 or 20 meters in diameter you can start playing sports.

Water, Water, Everywhere...

Quite different from moving around, there's playing with things in zero gravity. Even on just a small scale, playing with water is fun... Squeeze a few blobs out of a bottle and they form little spheres, which you can line up and move around in mid-air in front of you just by blowing them. Or you can add colours to them, or blow air into one with a straw and make it swell up like a balloon. Or set one spinning so it forms a "rope" of water..... Again, the guys (no women back in those days) who lived in Skylab had fun with this, as well described in " A House in Space".

Actually you'll probably find yourself playing with water - or other liquids - inadvertently, when you spill your drink in a bar or with a meal! Luckily it's easier to wipe up than on Earth where it quickly hits the floor - you can just catch it in mid-air with a tissue or handkerchief. But don't let it hit anyone else! Incidentally, some Russian guys have said they seriously dislike bits of other peoples' food coming near them. But children are surely going to enjoy playing with food - imagine setting a grape floating across the room to land in a friend's drink... There will have to be dining rooms without children in!

In a zero-g swimming pool there is no deep end!

Playing with water on a larger scale will be fun too - like a "water room" in which (wearing bathing suits!) people can throw large blobs of water at each other...

A Picture Just Isn't the Same

"Great fun - but virtual reality won't kill you" some people say. Don't count on it! Why are there windows in airliners? It would be much safer to not have them, and just put screens there. Because customers like windows; they like to see the real world out there for themselves. Some things are deep human psychology. And the guess that space tourism is going to be a huge business is based on that - that for many, many people actually going there and seeing it and doing it for themselves is going to be well worth a few months' salary - or doing without other holidays for a few years, even. IMAX isn't going to stop it, and virtual reality isn't going to stop it either, however far it advances. They're going to help grow the market! The urge to experience for ourselves is enough to ensure that.

Interestingly, in Japanese science fiction, there's a concept of a "new type" of consciousness that you develop from living in space; there's even a popular monthly magazine called "New Type". Trouble is, it's not really clear what exactly it involves. We'll soon find out for real.

You Don't Have To Be Young - But It Helps!

In thinking of what there is to do in space, we shouldn't forget "market segmentation" - developing different services for different groups in the population - just like travel agencies do on Earth. For example, the elderly are going to be looking for a quieter holiday than young people - who might be going up mainly for sports - perhaps for a competition. The there will be family holidays, astronomical holidays - and talking about market segmentation, what will lovers do in space? Well that's a whole 'nother story again! Just like travel on Earth there'll be a whole range of different services and levels, from the highest-priced luxury mansions to minimum-cost theme-park style holidays.

And sure it'll start expensive - because at least some of the rich have some spirit of adventure - and they have the money to get there first! But fundamentally it needn't be very expensive to get to orbit. The Japanese Rocket Society estimates that the price of a return flight could fall to $20,000 once numbers are up into the hundreds of thousands/year. And we have to remember that Japan's aerospace experience is far less than that of the USA, Russia or Europe, so it's likely that it's possible for a good deal less than that.

Try this: ask your grand-parents about when they were young before World War 2. Ask them what they thought of flying in aeroplanes, and whether they thought they would ever get to fly themselves. Most of them will say "I really wanted to have a flight - but I never thought I'd get a chance myself". Yet within a generation it became a commonplace experience - and within just 2 generations 1 billion people now fly every year - that's 3 million every day!

So don't worry - although many of the people involved in space activities today really can't see that space tourism is going to happen, or will be popular, Space Future can! The facts are: people do want to go there, in large numbers. The technology exists already - it just has to be put together in the right system. And that's all that business needs - willing customers for a feasible service. It's going to happen - and about time!

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