NPP Delta II Launch

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It’s no joke: space tourism has been a reality for the ultra-rich since 2001, when American Dennis Tito hitched a ride to the International Space Station. He spent a week as part of the crew on a Russian Soyuz rocket courtesy of an arrangement between the Russian Federal Space Agency and the American space tourism company Space Adventures.

Since then, Space Adventures has flown tourists into space 7 more times, all on Soyuz ships. And 2014 might be the year that other corporations launch spaceflights as well — although Space Adventures is planning to one-up them all with a tourist trip to the moon.

 

Sub-orbital flights

 

As of early 2014, Space Adventures remained the only company to take tourists into space. But their affiliate, Zero G Corporation, gives lucky travelers the chance to experience zero gravity conditions in a highly modified conventional plane — for the relatively affordable price of around $5000.

Virgin Galactic is hoping to launch their own space plane some time in 2014, for a $250,000 ride up into the outer boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere. The plane, SpaceShip Two, will be carried up to about 50,000 feet on the back of its mothership, and then blasted free by rockets that will take it the rest of the way — a total distance of about 99 miles above the earth. Hundreds of tourists have already plunked down the full price of a ticket for the flight.

Other companies have projects still in their early phases. Armadillo Aerospace is currently developing a vertically launched sub-orbital rocket, and plans to sell tickets for a paltry $102,000 — practically a blue light special! And Blue Origin is seeking to lower prices by creating a completely reusable sub-orbital vehicle.

 

Orbital flights

The Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Space Adventures paused their orbital tourist flights after the disastrous flight of the Columbia. But the company will resume orbital tourism in 2015, so get your ticket now! The company has yet to release a ticket price to the public, but the last orbital space tourist — Canadian Guy Laliberte — paid $38,000,000 for his trip.

Heaven knows, this trip is probably worth the price. Private citizens will travel over 200 miles into space at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour. They’ll experience weightlessness as they enter into an orbit of the earth, and have the incomparable sight of planet Earth from above. The spacecraft will complete a full earth orbit every 90 minutes.

Space tourists will be thoroughly trained before leaving on their journey. The trip can last as long as 12 days in space with a visit to the International Space Station included at no extra charge.

 

To the moon

Crescent moon from space

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

For the truly adventurous (and mega-rich) Space Adventures is taking reservations now for their first private moon expedition. The flight will accommodate just two tourists and one experienced cosmonaut. Rumor has it that one of the two tourist seats is already taken.

The flight will begin on a Soyuz rocket, then rendezvous with the International Space Station. Visitors will spend 10 days there before heading out again in a specially modified lunar module. When it reaches the moon (about a 3-day trip), the lunar module will enter into a looping trajectory, getting as close as 62 miles to its cratered surface.

Space Adventures plans to launch their first moon flight toward the end of 2015. The price of a ticket? It’s estimated to be around $150,000,000.

Pad A, Launch Complex 39

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons