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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Tourism or Taxes
Who do you want to pay for to go to space?

Until space tourism becomes a substantial business space activities, including particularly all crewed space activities, will remain a burden on tax-payers - that means you. No other activity than tourism offers similar promise of turning space activities into profitable commercial activities in the foreseeable future.

Going Nowhere Fast

Suppose the taxpayers of the world were to ask: "For how many more decades are we going to have to pay $25 billion per year (the current level of government space spending!) before space activities become financially self-supporting?" Since the space agencies of the world currently have no plans to develop passenger-carrying launch-vehicles, this would be at least 30 years - just $750 billion. Why should the public agree to pay this? Especially since the agencies are not doing what they want?

In the last few years space activities in Russia have shrunk by about 90% - because they have little commercial value. And currently Russia must concentrate its resources on activities that are commercially valuable and contribute to economic growth. The budgets of NASA, ESA and several national space agencies have started to be cut recently. It's quite possible that government budget cuts in the rich countries will lead to continuing cuts in space spending there too, since they have little public support. The only way to ensure the growth of space activities is to put them on a commercial basis - and that means developing a space tourism industry.

It's possible to go even further and argue that until space tourism becomes a major new profit center of the aerospace industry, economic growth in the rich countries will remain sluggish. Over the past few decades governments have invested approximately $1 trillion in space activities, but this investment is still far from earning a commercial return. By normal business standards a $1 trillion investment should be earning annual profits of $100 billion or more by now - but annual turnover (let alone profits) of all commercial space activities is still only in the billions of $$. Large-scale profits can arise only from large-scale space activities - which can be achieved only by making much more effort to develop economical passenger launch-vehicles.

An Historical Analogy

During the last decades of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show" toured throughout the USA and Europe to enormous popular acclaim. No doubt Bill Cody was mocked by his previous colleagues saying "Entertainment's no job for a real cowboy".

But "Buffalo Bill" created a great deal of wealth; he became world-famous; and he entertained and educated tens of millions of people about the "Wild West". (He also went on to play an important role in the development of aviation). By comparison, being a cowboy became relatively less and less well-paid. Today it may be fun as a hobby, but as a way of life such manual labour has its limitations - unless you're in a cigarette commercial! It would surely to right to say that Bill Cody read the times correctly.

So, instead of expecting taxpayers to keep paying colossal sums for their expensive - and elitist - interests, astronauts and space agency staff should learn from Bill Cody and start to develop an orbital hospitality industry. This will not only be hugely popular with the public around the world, but it will also enrich the space industry and other participating businesses, and the economies of those countries which play a major role in it, and it will stimulate world economic growth.

A Simple Choice

For as long as the space industry does not take this path, then space activities will remain a tax-payer funded activity. As such they surely don't have a very bright future. Who'll pay $500 billion to watch a few people walk on Mars? - when instead they could spend a few tens of $ billions (at most) and get a space tourism industry? As the choice becomes clearer it's easy to predict what taxpayers will choose - if their opinions are asked!

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