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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.
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B A Stone, , "Space Tourism: Exploring a New Industry", 96-m-4V. Advanced Concepts Office. Tel: 202-358-0692 Fax: 202-358-3084 E-mail: BSTONE@HQ.NASA.GOV.
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Space Tourism: Exploring a New Industry
Dr. Barbara A Stone
Access to space has to date been limited to a select few individuals. When the frontiers of space are truly opened it will become a place where people live, work and, ultimately, choose as a tourist destination. This paper provides a broad overview of the concept of public access to space in the context of today's economic and technical environment. A survey of current initiatives to make space tourism a reality is presented, along with a discussion of the present issues related to the subject.
Space as a Place For Tourists

The reasons why tourists might choose space as a destination are many and varied. Space provides the opportunity for adventure, great scenery, new things to learn about, and the opportunity to do something unique and literally "out of this world." The properties of space which make it different from Earth (and valuable to space scientists) also make it interesting to the tourist. Because tourism involves relatively short exposure to space (compared to long-duration space flight or settlement) the tourist can seek to experience these differences while avoiding their consequences. For example, while it may be desirable to create artificial gravity to live and work permanently (or for long periods) in space, a person in orbit for only a relatively short time period (hours or days) would experience weightlessness with only minimum exposure to its possible long-term negative effects.

As is true with other types of "adventure travel," there are also negatives to be considered. The potential disadvantages of space tourism include the risk associated with space flight, the level of difficulty of preparation and, possibly, the physical discomfort of space motion sickness during the trip.

Space as a Business Opportunity

Industry interest in commercial applications of space, which began in the 1960's with satellite telecommunications, now includes a variety of launch vehicles, geopositioning, medical and industrial applications of microgravity, and related services. In the emerging era of maturing space activities, space tourism offers a wide range of new commercial opportunities for businesses, both on the ground and in space.

The concept of space tourism as a business has been studied frequently. In the past ten years, several studies (to be discussed later in this paper) in the United States and elsewhere have concluded that space tourism could be the next major space business. The terrestrial component of space tourism is already a reality as crowds of people of all ages and nationalities daily fill attractions such as the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and Spaceport USA in Florida.

The current travel and tourism industry is a multibillion dollar and growing business sector. In the United States last year, travel and tourism generated an estimated $430 billion in expenditures; was the nation's leading export; and the second-largest sector in terms of employment (behind health services). (1) Americans spent $968 million per day on travel and tourism in 1995. International visitors spent $210 million per day on travel in the United States, creating an $18.1 billion trade surplus, which constituted 40 percent of the total services trade surplus.

Pleasure travel is highly dependent on the availability of discretionary funds since it competes with the purchase of durable goods and other items. Tourism in the United States therefore benefits from the upward trend of women participating in the labor force and the downward trend in family size, which result in increased discretionary funds as well as increased flexibility in types and timing of vacations.

Since "travel services" is a diverse industry, some difficulty arises in segregating tourism travel from travel for business or visiting family and friends. Insight into the potential market for space tourism can be galned from examining oceangoing cruise lines, whose passengers are almost exclusively vacationers and primarily high-end tourists (although there are cruise packages in all cost ranges).

According to information provided by the Cruise Lines International Association, there were over 4.4 million North American market passengers in 1994 (the last full year of statistics available). (2) The average annual growth rate for cruise line passengers since 1980 has been 8.6 percent, and by the year 2000 as many as 7 million passengers per year are projected. Also significant for early space tourism trips, the largest growth (387 percent) was in the 2 to 5 day cruising category, reflecting North America's shorter vacation patterns.

Public Access as a Support of Government Initiatives

The paradigm of space as the restricted domain of governments, utilized exclusively for scientific and technical purposes, has been questioned in a number of studies supporting public access to space. Classic among these is the 1984 report Civilian Space Stations and the U.S. Future in Space, of the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). The OTA proposed for discussion six national goals among which was one to "...involve the public directly in space activities, both on Earth and in space." (3) The OTA also formulated objectives to support the goals. The supporting objective for public access was that "At least hundreds of members of the general public per year, from the United States and abroad, could be selected on an equitable basis and brought into space for short visits there." (4) The rationale for the goal and objective was that "Only when a large number of our citizens, representatives of a broad cross-section of our society, begin to experience the 'space adventure' directly, will the space domain and space activities gradually begin to move into the mainstream of our national interests and concerns." (5) Although this study is now over 12 years old, its findings concerning public access to space are still valid today.

While there is still a tendency in some circles to trivialize space tourism, it is entirely possible that it may provide significant benefits to national space programs. Access to space is currently a valuable and scarce resource. However, as members of the general public travel into space they will constitute a large private market for commercial vehicle fleets, and will restore general public constituency for government space programs. Personal observation of space may also result in a well-spring of creative ideas for new uses of the space environment.

Anyone with a birthday on or after April 12, 1961, was born into a world where people travel into space in increasing numbers. It may well be that at some point this generation will consider that the opportunity for space travel should be a birthright rather than an experience available only to scientists and explorers.

Early Dreams of Space Tourism

Dreams of space travel and space tourism are perhaps as old as humankind itself. The first documented author to write about space travel was Lucien of Samosata in the second century A.D. He describes in Vera Historia a trip to the Moon by a ship lifted through the air by a great storm. (6) More recently, the second half of the 19th century has been called the "Golden Age" of space-related science fiction. Jules Verne published the historic From the Earth to the Moon in 1865, and A Trip Around the Moon 5 years later. These and other works of science fiction had a profound influence because they were written during a period when actual advances in areas such as metallurgy, heat engines, and propellants made space travel possible. The "Fathers" of space rocketry -- Herman Ganswindt, Konstantin Eduardovitch Tsiolkovsky, Robert Hutchings Goddard, and Hermann Oberth -- each admitted that he had been inspired by the books of Jules Verne and the other science fiction writers of the era.

Once space flight became a reality, space tourism became possible. Krafft Ehricke laid the foundation for future studies with his paper "Space Tourism" which was presented at the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the American Astronautical Society and published in 1967. (7) The paper contains designs for extensive orbital tourist facilities and hotels utilized by space tourists arriving on a reusable aerospace transport operating on a schedule of two flights daily.

A number of creative proposals for "non-traditional" uses of space were proposed in the 1980's. Taking tourists to space, possibly as early as the 1990's, was one such proposal. At that time the potential demand for space tourism was estimated to be significant. For example, an opinion poll carried out for the American Express company in the United Kingdom showed that more than 50 percent of those under 45 years of age and 65 percent of those under 25 would like a holiday in space. (8)

One of the more notable space tourism initiatives was undertaken by Society Expeditions, an American company specializing in exotic vacations, which studied the feasibility of making space voyages available to the general public. In August 1985, Society Expeditions representatives presented the results of their study to NASA. (9) Their plan included organizing and operating space tours for more than 10,000 people in the decade between 1992 and 2002. On October 29, 1985, Society Expeditions announced that it was taking reservations for spaceflight trips scheduled to start on October 12, 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the new World. (10)

Another U.S. company, Space Travel, proposed to offer passengers a ticket for a ride on the Shuttle for $1 million per seat. Passengers would be carried in a part of the Shuttle cargo bay converted to a pressurized habitable module, fitted to accommodate passengers. However, NASA rejected the idea, having concluded that it was unsafe to carry people outside the crew compartment during launches and landings. Development of a module -- eventually called Spacehab -- continued, but not for the purpose of carrying passengers. (11) Spacehab modules now provide standard middeck lockers and crewtended access to the microgravity environment for experimentation, technology development, and small-scale production on the Shuttle.

The concept of public access to space was also gaining momentum at NASA in the 1980's. On December 23, 1983, the U.S. Government Federal Register published an announcement from NASA that it would select fit and healthy individuals as passengers for the Shuttle. (12) Eventually the Teacher in Space and the Journalist in Space Programs were developed.

After having received 11,000 applications for the Teacher in Space Program, President Ronald Reagan announced on August 27, 1984, that Sharon Christa McAuliffe would fly on an upcoming Shuttle mission. (13) On October 24, 1985, NASA announced that it would fly a journalist into space, having sought and received applications from candidates who felt they could use their journalistic training to communicate their experiences to ordinary citizens. (14)

While NASA's Space flight Participant Programs were not tourist programs, they were based on a philosophy that space should be shared with all citizens instead of being the exclusive domain of professional scientists and explorers. The Space flight Participant Program, which would eventually have included sending an artist into space, was canceled in the wake of the Challenger accident in 1986.


The first year of the new decade brought the first non-fiction book on the subject of space tourism, Your Spaceflight Manual - How You Could Be a Tourist in Space within Twenty Years. (15) In the book, authors David Ashford and Patrick Collins consider the feasibility of space tourism and conclude that there is potentially a very large demand. Further, they found no insurmountable technical difficulties precluding initiation in 10 to 17 years (i.e., 2000 to 2007).

Researchers F. Eilengsfeld and S. Abitzsch at the Aerospace Institute of the Technical University of Berlin in Berlin, Germany have studied the prospects of commercial passenger transportation into low-Earth orbit. Their 1993 case study considered a market model for a thirty-year time span (2020 to 2050) and three different market growth scenarios. (16) A finding of the case study is that a space tourism initiative is feasible, if there is a national will to strive for the goal. The authors suggest using a space tour lottery to overcome the initial high prices, while at the same time attracting more people to the concept of space tourism. A "day trip" of up to 12 hours flight duration (equating to five to eight orbits) would be the most practical since it would eliminate the need for living quarters beyond those currently available on commercial aircraft.


The first Space Tourism Conference of the Japanese Rocket Society ( JRS) was held as a part of the organization's Annual General Meeting on April 4, 1993. The JRS study program consists of research in disciplines areas of medicine, enterprise, transportation and passenger service. (17)

The first professional market research on the demand for space tourism was carried out in 1993 in Japan. The survey of 3,030 Japanese people across all age groups revealed that more than 70 percent of those under 60 years old and more than 80 percent of those under 40 years old would like to visit space. Of these, 70 percent would be willing to pay up to three months' salary for the trip. (18) The results of the study, which was done under the auspices of the National Aerospace Laboratory ( NAL), convinced many knowledgeable space professionals and commercial interests that a space tourism business grossing over $10 billion annually could be created.

In 1995, NAL sponsored a comparable study carried out in the United States and Canada. The results of the 1995 survey indicate that interest in traveling to space is also high among North Americans. The survey of 1,020 North Americans between the ages of 20 and 80 years, revealed that more than 60 percent of the population are interested in space travel. Of those under 40 years old, 75 percent were interested, between 40 and 60 years old, 60 percent were interested, and between 60 and 80 years old, 25 percent were interested. (19) Even allowing for a substantial gap between respondents replies and their subsequent actions, the survey indicates the potential for a multibillion dollar per year North American market.

The United States

In 1994 an alliance of six major U.S. aerospace companies conducted a study to systematically identify future launch opportunities and define a next-generation launch system. The objectives of the Commercial Space Transport Study (CSTS) were to assess market elasticity with the long term goal of expanding the market for space products and services. (20) The CSTS differed from traditional studies in that it researched potential customer needs rather than trying to identify customers for a preconceived space transportation system. The results of this study suggest that space tourism should be given serious attention.

Following the CSTS, the Space Transportation Association and NASA entered into a Space Act Agreement to conduct a study of space tourism. (21) The study, dated September 12, 1995 and entitled "Establishing a U.S. Space Tourism Business," will detail what private sector and government actions are necessary to develop a large space tourism enterprise. Issues such as the physiology of living and working in space, safety, technology requirements, and business issues such as insurance, policy, and regulatory requirements will be considered.


What do Napoleon, Charles Darwin, and Lawrence of Arabia all have in common? They all suffered from motion sickness while performing their historic feats. (21) Most travelers at one time or another have been the victims of some form of seasickness, carsickness, or in the case of Lawrence of Arabia, camelsickness.

Finding an effective treatment for space motion sickness, which has affected approximately 50 percent of all travelers to space, is a high priority for NASA. (23) Unfortunately, space motion sickness in an individual is a disorder that cannot be predicted on the ground in advance of the space launch. In space, symptoms vary from mild to acute discomfort, beginning as early as 7 minutes in orbit and lasting 1 to 5 days. (24)

Medications and biofeedback techniques are being studied at NASA as countermeasures for space motion sickness. Dr. Patricia S. Cowings at NASA's Ames Research Center, is conducting a research program evaluating the utility of applied psychophysiological methods for investigating and solving biomedical problems associated with human spaceflight. Central to this task is development and testing of Autogenic-Feedback Training Exercise, an operant conditioning method which enables humans to learn voluntary control of several physiological responses simultaneously.

Medication is now available to alleviate seasickness, and the fantastic increase in the number of cruise passengers attests to its effectiveness. For space tourism to become a commercial success, the problem of space sickness must likewise be overcome.

In examining the potential market, space tourism can be viewed as a new concept, or as an improved way of doing something that is already being done. The satellite communications industry is successful because it provided a new and vastly improved method for people to do something they were already doing -- communicating. Likewise, space tourism can be viewed as a new and exciting segment of the already enormous world tourism market. Studies of how, why, and where will people be traveling 25 and more years from now must include consideration of space as a tourist destination.

The common thread linking all studies of space tourism is the need for safe, low-cost, predictable access to space. However, very low space transportation cost per flight depends on a high flight rate, which in turn can be achieved if space tourism becomes a reality. There must also be reasonable certainty that these flights will become as safe as commercial aircraft.

Enlarging the scope of space applications requires a careful examination of "non-traditional" uses such as space tourism. Studies and surveys worldwide suggest that space tourism has the potential to be the next major space business. While space tourism may not take place in the immediate future, when the frontiers of space are truly opened it will become a place where people live and work -- and ultimately choose as a tourist destination.

  1. Data provided by the Travel Industry Association of America, January, 30, 1996.
  2. Data provided by the Cruise Lines International Association in their publication The Cruise Industry, An Overview, dated January 1996.
  3. Office of Technology Assessment, November 1984, " Civilian Space Stations and the U.S. Future in Space", Washington, DC: U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, OTA-STI-241, p. 15.
  4. Ibid., p. 16.
  5. Ibid., p. 118.
  6. Beryl Williams and Samuel Epstein, 1959, " The Rocket Pioneers", New York: Julian Messner, Inc., p. 31.
  7. Krafft A Ehricke, 1968, " Space Tourism [p]", Advances in the Astronautical Sciences 23 p. 259-291.
  8. P Q Collins and D M Ashford, October 1986, "Potential Economic Implications of the Development of Space Tourism", 37th Congress of the International Astronautical Federation, p. 2.
  9. Society Expeditions Inc., 1995, " One Year Goals for Space Tourism", presentation to NASA dated August 30, 1995.
  10. David Baker, 1996, " Spaceflight and Rocketry: A Chronology", New York: Facts On File, Inc., p. 392.
  11. "Spacehab Mid-deck Module Planned," Space Business News, October 7, 1985, p. 1.
  12. Baker, p. 371.
  13. Baker, p. 379.
  14. Baker, p. 391.
  15. David Ashford and Patrick Collins, 1990, "Your Spaceflight Manual - How You Could Be a Tourist in Space within Twenty Years", (London: Headline Book Publishing Plc.).
  16. F Eilingsfeld and S Abitzsch, October 1993, "Space Tourism for Europe - A Case Study", IAA.1.2-93-654, 44th Congress of the International Astronautical Federation.
  17. P Collins and Kohki Isozaki, December 1995, "JRS Research Activities for Space Tourism", Sixth International Space Conference of Pacific-Basin Societies.
  18. P Collins, R Stockmans, and M Maita, December 1995, "Demand for Space Tourism in America and Japan, and its Implications for Future Space Activities" ,Sixth International Space Conference of Pacific-Basin Societies, p. 1.
  19. Ibid., p. 4.
  20. "Commercial Space Transport Study (CSTS) Final Report" prepared by the CSTS Alliance (Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed, Martin Marietta, McDonnell Douglas, and Rockwell) April 1994.
  21. The Space Transportation Association Press Release, September 12, 1995.
  22. Robert Gannon, "Why We Throw Up," Popular Science, March 1995, p. 98.
  23. Patricia S Cowings and William B Toscano, Autogenic-Feedback Training (AFT) as a Preventive Method for Space Motion Sickness: Background and Experimental Design, NASA Technical Memorandum 108780, August 1993, p. 1.24 Ibid.
B A Stone, , "Space Tourism: Exploring a New Industry", 96-m-4V. Advanced Concepts Office. Tel: 202-358-0692 Fax: 202-358-3084 E-mail: BSTONE@HQ.NASA.GOV.
Also downloadable from tourism exploring a new industry.shtml

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