So we’re finally at the point in time where even regular people can experience their share of space. If you have the spare cash you can get your own space fix for a few minutes, coupled with all the zero-gravity fun. The only problem is that the amount of spare cash needed might be someone’s life savings. Space tourism is very new so, understandably, there is a premium price tag.
As of now, only two companies are offering passengers a glimpse of space. These are Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. Both of them have done multiple test flights. We say flight but it’s more of a hop that’s a few minutes long before the rocket or capsule used descends back to Earth. Virgin Galactic was founded by Richard Branson while Blue Origin is Jeff Bezos’ project. One of the billionaires has used his company to visit space albeit briefly.
Both companies have a different way to go about space travel. Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket takes off vertically. The crew capsule detaches from the rocket just before reaching the Karman line (which is 62 miles or 100 kilometers in altitude). The capsule then stays in space for a few minutes before it falls back to Earth and lands with the help of three parachutes. Virgin Galactic does almost the same thing but with a massive carrier plane.
The carrier plane takes off from a runway. After reaching an optimal height, it drops a rocket-powered spaceplane. The spaceplane soars up to 50 miles in altitude, giving its passengers a few minutes in space. The spaceplane then glides back to Earth. Both of the companies only take up to 6 passengers per flight. So if you’re really going to get your space fix, you’re going to be stuck in queues for a long time.
As of now, only Virgin Galactic has announced that commercial flights would start from 2022. They still have two more test flights to do. Blue Origin doesn’t have a timeline detailed but we are expecting something to happen in 2022. The only problem is the price, to be honest. At $250,000 for a ticket, experiencing space flight right now might be limited to the small percentage of rich people.
Paying that amount for just a few minutes in space doesn’t really seem that enticing for me. But hey, maybe I would change my opinion after experiencing it once. The good thing is that there aren’t any strict requirements that would stop from going to space (except the price). Virgin Galactic trains you for five days while Blue Origin will teach you everything just one day before launch.
All that’s left is to see just how SpaceX measures up to the competition.