Space tourism to entail development of near-Earth hotels and space limousines

A ticket to space will cost about $208,000, which is rather cheap in comparison with the journey to the ISS

Space tourists Denis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth, who made their trips to the International Space Station in 2001 and 2002 on board Russian Soyuz spaceships, as well as three successful sub-orbital voyages of the US first-ever tourist spacecraft SpaceShipOne (SS1) in September-October of 2004 triggered the development of the industry of space tourism. The dream has become real for multi-millionaires so far. However, the opportunities of the SS1 craft with its abilities to fly at the height of almost 100 kilometers and short-term weightlessness during the craft's return to Earth, can be affordable for middle classes too.

When the SS1 finished its first successful space voyage, specialists decided to amend the spacecraft, in order to make it roomier and more comfortable. American and British billionaires organized the new consortium to pursue this goal – Virgin Galactic Airways. To start the exploitation of five sub-orbital tourist spacecrafts in 2007-2008 is the prime goal of the new organization. Each of the five crafts will be capable of carrying five passengers. A space flight is expected to last for 2.5 hours: passengers will experience three or four minutes of weightlessness, when the spaceships start descending from the upper point of the trajectory. A ticket to space will cost about $208,000, which is relatively cheap in comparison with the price of the journey to the ISS - $15 million.

Virgin Galactic plans to organize space tours for 3,000 people in five years. It is noteworthy that the company has already received reservation requests from 18,000 potential space tourists.

The interest in passenger flights beyond the limits of the Earth's atmosphere made the US administration issue the new law, which stipulated amendments to the act of commercial space launches. Would-be space travelers will have to undergo medical examinations before they take their seats in the spacecraft. In addition, people will have to sign a paper, which will document their agreement to claim the risk that can be connected with such a daring journey. Furthermore, organizations, which deal with the exploitation of tourist spacecrafts, will have to inform their clients of the machines' technical reliability and conduct training sessions of flight security measures with them too. Pilots of passenger spacecrafts will have to be licensed accordingly. Some American officials believe that the US government's preoccupation with space travelers' security may bring the whole commercial space industry to a standstill. Experts say that private space flights should be treated as adventures, not transportations.

Space adventures have already become the driving force in the development of space technology. The competition between the world's biggest corporations and smaller space organizations may soon result in the creation of “near-Earth hotels,” in which clients will arrive on their “space limousines.”

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Author`s name Olga Savka