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?
Here are some key documents from the archive to get you started:
From the financial point of view there are two sides to a business - costs and revenues, supply and demand. Much of the work of the space industry is spent on developing new technology. But there's no point in doing this if there's no economic benefit. No launch vehicle being developed or planned by government space agencies today will pay back their investment - let alone earn a profit - because the demand for launching satellites is tiny. It's time to stop this expensive process and focus on making space activities profitable.
The possible size of the market for space tourism was discussed in a number of papers in the 1980s ( B Citron,P Collins and D Ashford) and again in a study by a group of US aerospace companies (CSTS) in 1994. But the first actual market research was carried out in Japan in 1993. The results of this survey were extremely positive - some 70% said they'd like to travel to space, and almost half said they would pay 3 months' salary to do so. The results are described in detail in papers presented at conferences, and subsequently published in journals. The best thing is to read the papers themselves.
In 1995 small surveys were carried out in Toronto and Berlin, followed by a nation-wide telephone survey of 1020 people in Canada and USA. These surveys all found that the idea of space tourism is massively popular, and the results are described in other papers (S Abitzsch,P Collins et al).
In 1997 the US "National Leisure Travel Monitor" survey included questions on space tourism for the first time. Of 1,500 Americans surveyed, 42% said they'd be interested in flying in a space cruise vessel, and would be willing to spend on average $10,800 for the trip.
Work for the Future
Of course there are many factors that can influence the results of market research, and more work needs to be done on many different aspects. But all the work done to date shows a broadly similar picture: Most people would like to go to space! And why not? Some people argue that it will just be a "flash in the pan" - popular for a year or two until the next "craze" comes along - maybe living underwater.
We don't agree.
We believe that taking a trip to space is going to become the key experience of the post-cold-war era. We believe that almost everyone will wish to go to orbit at least once in their lifetime - to look at Earth floating in space; to look out at the stars, our future; and to have the truly "un-Earthly" experience of living in zero gravity. And we believe many people will wish to go out repeatedly, and live and work there - as they say they do in surveys. And if this is true, then space tourism is the biggest unexploited new market - bar none!
Your Opinion Counts
What do you think from talking with your friends and acquaintances?
More market research is required on many details, like national differences, potential for market segmentation, trends in different age-groups, and so on. And how about a survey in Europe? Or India? Or China? Space Future is keen to collaborate with anyone interested in doing further work on this.