For years, we’ve been saying it: space tourism is going to happen this year! Now, finally, at long last, that prediction seems likely to come true in 2019. We are on the brink of space tourism, and all of us wanna-be astronauts will actually have a chance to go to space. The question is: which of the space tourism companies should you book your (currently super-expensive) ticket with?
Below, we’ve broken down each of the space tourism companies that currently allow customers to book a ticket – or at least to inquire about future flights. If you want to become a space tourist, these are the companies that can make it happen.
1. Space Adventures
If you want to book a ticket today and go to space, Space Adventures is the first company you should contact. Since it was founded in 1998, Space Adventures is (to date) the only company which has sent paying customers to space. Between 2001 and 2009, seven people paid to spend between 7-16 days aboard the International Space Station. Read our full history of space tourism for more details.
Today, Space Adventures offers several different space tourism experiences. On earth, they offer launch tours to Baikonur Cosmodrome, spaceflight training at Star City, Russia, and zero-gravity flights. In space, they currently accept inquiries for trips to both the space station and around the moon. The price depends on who provides the launch and how long you want to stay.
2. Virgin Galactic
As we discuss the near future of space tourism, we have to mention two companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin (next on this list). These two companies are leading the way in the space tourism industry. They aim to make space tourism accessible to everyone eventually – if you’re willing to save up for a ticket.
Virgin Galactic was founded by billionaire Richard Branson, who hopes to be on the first passenger flight. As of mid-2019, Virgin Galactic is preparing for their first flights with paying customers – once these happen we’ll update this section with more details.
Virgin Galactic will offer a modified space plane flight: passengers will board the VSS Unity. You’ll ascend to space, separate from the mother plane and rocket up to the edge of space. On the descent, you’ll experience weightlessness and get to view the curve of the earth. The current price is $250,000 per person, and over 650 people hold tickets for future flights.
3. Blue Origin
Blue Origin is the other major space tourism company, founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos way back in 2000. Bezos plans for Blue Origin to offer both commercial launch services and space tourism launches.
Unlike Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin plans to use rockets and passenger capsules to send space tourists to the edge of space. You’ll board the passenger capsule atop a New Shepard rocket, ascend to roughly 300,000ft in elevation, then experience weightlessness as you begin your descent back to earth. Tickets for a seat on Blue Origin are also $250,000 – but the waiting list is a bit shorter than Virgin Galactic if you’re in a hurry to reach space.
We’ve previously discussed whether SpaceX counts as a space tourism company, but as of late 2018 it’s official: SpaceX has agreed to take Japanese entrepreneur and billionaire Yusaku Maezawa along with several artists on a trip around the moon. The target launch window is 2023; we’ll see how that timeline is adjusted as we get closer to launch.
No one is sure if SpaceX will offer other space tourism experiences like this in the future. However, their contract with NASA does allow them to carry space tourists to the ISS aboard Crew Dragon capsules, so it’s possible that intrepid space tourists will one day use SpaceX rockets and capsules to reach space.
Like SpaceX, most people characterize Boeing as a commercial launch company, rather than a space tourism company. But also like SpaceX, we may see Boeing enter the space tourism industry soon.
Boeing is the second company contracted to bring astronauts to the International Space Station, along with SpaceX. As part of their agreement, Boeing will have empty seats on some launches, which they are theoretically permitted to sell to tourists. While any visits to the ISS require NASA approval, in early 2019 NASA suggested that they may entertain this idea in the future – for the price ticket of $35,000 per night.
If you’re familiar with space, you already know that Roscosmos, Роскосмос, is the Russian Space Agency. In partnership with NASA, Roscosmos helps train and launch all astronauts to the International Space Station; they have done so since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. They have also permitted Space Adventures to purchase seats aboard their Soyuz rockets for space tourists who pay to visit the ISS. The last space tourist went in 2009; nobody has been to the ISS since.
In 2018, Roscosmos announced that they would again partner with Space Adventures to allow space tourists to fly to space aboard Soyuz rockets. According to the news, Roscosmos and Space Adventures will fly two tourists to space for a short-term flight – not to the ISS – in 2021. No word yet on how much that cost those space tourists or if they’ll do another flight in the future… but there are so many space tourism companies now, it won’t surprise me if they do!
Zero2Infinity is a Spanish aerospace company that made a big splash when they announced their plans to send tourists to space. They became one of the first companies to propose a feasible plan for space tourism with balloons!
The basic idea is that passengers will board a ‘Bloon,’ a capsule capable of carrying four passengers and two crew up to the edge of space. You’ll then be lifted by a helium balloon up to roughly 118,000 feet. You’ll see the edge of the earth and the fine line of the atmosphere before slowly descending back to earth by parachute. They don’t have public pricing on their website, but the total flight time will be roughly four hours.
8. World View Enterprises
Like Zero2Infinity, World View Enterprises is a ‘balloon’ launch provider. When they initially proposed their technology in 2013, it included a business arm focused on space tourism.
With World View Enterprises, travelers will board a pressurized capsule which is raised to the edge of space using a massive helium-filled balloon. With up to five other passengers and two crew, you’ll spend five hours from takeoff to touchdown, and get a view of the earth from as high as 100,000 feet in elevation.
The tickets cost $75,000 per person, and you can request info on their website. As of 2019, World View Enterprises suggested they might be focusing less on space tourism and more on research and commercial business, but they’re still a contender!
9. Bigelow Aerospace
Moving into the category of ‘space hotels,’ I have to start with Bigelow. Founded by billionaire Robert Bigelow in 1999, Bigelow Aerospace builds expandable space station modules.
Bigelow launched two demo modules to orbit in 2006 and 2007. In 2016, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module was attached to the International Space Station. Their idea for space hotels built of these modules is a solid one with great proof of concept.
While Bigelow doesn’t have a timeline or price for ‘rooms’ in their future space hotel, they’re the one most likely to actually do it – and probably do it first!
10. Axiom Space
As space tourism becomes a reality, more companies are coming into the industry to help meet traveler’s needs. One such company is Axiom Space founded in 2016. Axiom was the newest realistic space habitat company since Bigelow back in the late 90s.
Axiom plans to build a private space station that will initially connect with the International Space Station, then take over management of the entire station when the ISS is privatized. There’s no timeline set up for this yet, but Axiom Space has been working on design anyway.
If you want to spend eight days aboard the ‘Axiom International Commercial Space Station’ (once it’s open), it will cost $55 million and you’ll need to spend 15 weeks in training. That’s a high cost – but it will be an unforgettable experience!
11. Orion Span
The latest space hotel idea comes from Orion Span, a California company. In March 2018, Orion Span announced plans to launch the Aurora Space Station by 2021 – and be ready for guests in 2022.
For the price of $9.5 million, visitors will be able to book a 12-day stay aboard the Aurora Space Station following a three-month training program. Once you’re in orbit, you’ll be able to free-float, look out windows, practice hydroponic gardening, and play in a ‘hologram deck,’ like those ones in Star Trek.
Okay, so technically ZERO-G won’t take you to space – but they’re one of the best options if you want to feel like you’re in space and you want to do it now.
ZERO-G offers parabolic flights aboard a modified Boeing 727 affectionately dubbed “G-FORCE ONE.” Inside, you won’t find narrow seats and cramped legroom – you’ll find an open space that you will soon be exploring while weightless!
The ZERO-G plane makes a series of 15 parabolas that allow you to experience weightlessness for 20-30 seconds at a time. It’s a steep price at $5,400 per person, but it’s a whole day of experience – and way cheaper than the other options we’ve mentioned so far!
Which of these space tourism companies do you want to launch with? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo credit: Land Rover MENA via Flickr