In early 2017, one of the first posts I wrote for Space Tourism Guide was a post of space tourism predictions for the coming year. Back then, I predicted we’d see manned test flights, falling prices, and more interest in space tourism-related activities on earth.
Unfortunately, it has taken a long time for these predictions to come to pass! 2017 and 2018 were great years as the industry developed, but they were steps on a long journey. Now, in 2019, I feel confident making new predictions that seem not only likely but probable.
Here are six space tourism predictions for 2019, showing how far the industry has come – and how far we’ll go this year.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Test Flights
Photo credit: NASA Kennedy via Flickr
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program had major progress in 2018, as both SpaceX and Boeing met major milestones on their timelines to begin flying U.S. astronauts to space on U.S.-made rockets from U.S. soil.
This is important for space tourism because both providers also have rights to sell excess seats to tourists in the future. Test flights will prove the viability and safety of the hardware and show NASA and the world that we’re ready to start launching here again. Someday, these launches may include space tourists too!
Paying Customer Space Tourism Flights
Photo credit: Land Rover MENA va Flickr
Virgin Galactic made headlines late in 2018 with the exciting news that two pilots had finally breached the boundary of space on a test flight. CEO Richard Branson was enthusiastically promoting space tourism as the year ended, and his team met the goal of sending two people to space before the holidays.
I predict that we’ll first see Virgin Galactic send more people to space in 2019. In fact, I think we’ll see Sir Richard himself take the inaugural flight, and hopefully 1-2 more flights with paying customers. I also predict Blue Origin will follow, sending at least one ship of people to space before the end of 2019.
Another Round of Ticket Sales
Once the first space tourist successfully goes to space and returns to earth, I predict you’ll see a swarm of people trying to book tickets. Most space tourism companies, like Virgin Galactic, are sold out 2-3 years in advance (source). Right now, you actually can’t book a ticket. Smart companies will open up reservations again on a limited basis once they’ve proven that space tourism is possible. Like tickets to Hamilton, these will sell out fast and cost a lot. But it’ll give anyone who’s been uncertain about booking a ticket the chance to finally commit. A new influx of cash investment from ticketholders will help space tourism companies scale up even faster.
Three New Company Announcements
Photo credit: Bigelow Aerospace
If there’s one thing we know, it’s that entrepreneurs and inventors are eager to get a piece of the space tourism industry pie. Morgan Stanley named said investing in space was a smart choice late in 2018 (source), and we saw several new companies try to enter the industry last year. Many of these were a bit far-fetched, outlandish, or poorly-planned from a business perspective.
The most notable, Orion Span, made a splash with their space hotel concept, but to date have only raised 10% of their target $2M crowdfunded investment round (source). Similarly, Space Nation, which caught attention in 2017 for claiming to build an app that would eventually produce a reality TV show and a grand winner with a ticket to space, has been notably quiet for most of the last year, reducing parts of their business to focus on the core app.
These wild and crazy ideas, while unlikely to ever succeed, are an important part of the development of the space tourism industry. Some ideas are ‘too soon for their time,’ whereas others don’t make sense at scale… but all signal that the industry is inspiring new ideas and investment.
In 2019, I predict we’ll see at least three new companies enter the market. Some may be right on target to help meet an industry need; others may be a bit ‘out there’ while the industry matures.
Astrotourism on the Rise Propelled by Major Travel Publications
Photo credit: Eddie Yip via Flickr
In late 2018 and early 2019, several major travel outlets named space tourism and astrotourism as a major travel trend:
- Lonely Planet named dark sky tourism to its Best in Travel trends list and put several astrotourism destinations on their top destinations lists (source)
- National Geographic named both astrotourism and space tourism as trends to watch this year (source)
- The San Francisco Chronicle named space tourism part of their future of travel series for 2019 (source)
As mainstream travel publications promote space tourism and astrotourism more, you’ll see more travelers adding these activities onto their travel plans. I predict you’ll see stargazing trips, traveling to see a rocket launch, and even eclipse-chasing will all rise in popularity.
The South American Eclipse will Surpass Tourism Estimates
Photo credit: M. Druckmüller, P. Aniol, K. Delcourte, P. Horálek, L. Calçada/ESO
Speaking of eclipses, there’s another great one this year. On July 2nd, a total solar eclipse will pass across the Pacific Ocean, a few Pacific Island nations, Chile, and Argentina. In some parts of Chile, forecasts predict anywhere from ‘thousands’ to ‘half a million’ people will travel to the area to experience totality. (source)
I predict the actual numbers will surpass even that half-million mark though. Like the 2017 solar eclipse in the U.S., we might not see accurate numbers for several months – if ever. Local tourism from the surrounding area, including from densely populated parts of Chile, Peru, and Brazil, will make traveling to the region around July 2nd a hassle, but it’s always worth it to see totality!
When Will Space Tourism Happen?
2019 looks like the year when space tourism will finally happen. We’ll see a few more test flights and eventually the first paying customers. More travelers will set their sights on visiting someday. Some will even hand over the large amounts needed to go in the next few years. If you’re eagerly waiting to become a space tourist yourself, 2019 should be a great year to watch!
Which of these space tourism predictions do you think will come true?
Featured photo credit: Eddie Yip via Flickr