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. It’s been a few years now, but I’m still making predictions… and getting better at them!
Space tourism made a lot of headlines last year, from Richard Branson’s launch over New Mexico to Jeff Bezos’s first flight – and then second flight with William Shatner and third flight too – to Inspiration4 and Yusaku Maezawa’s 12 days aboard the ISS. After literal decades of waiting for space to be open to ordinary (albeit wealthy and/or celebrity) citizens, 2021 is the year that history books will likely mark as the official beginning of space tourism and greater access to space for all.
Where do we go from here? The future is impossible to predict, but I have a few ideas – and chatted with a fellow space tourism industry expert to come up with space tourism predictions for 2022.
2021 Space Tourism Predictions Recap
Before launching into new predictions for this year, it’s only fair to look at the ones I made last year. For the first time since I started making these predictions four years ago, I was 100% right on my predictions – 2021 was a great year for space tourism!
Here were my 2021 space tourism predictions, and some thoughts looking back as we kick off 2022.
- ✅ ✅ ✅ This is The Year… Right?
IT WAS THE YEAR, PEOPLE! I was fortunate to attend the Virgin Galactic launch in July, and saw the birth of suborbital space tourism first-hand. Nine days later, Blue Origin joined the club… and then flew two more passenger flights before year’s end.
Space tourism is here. How many years did it take?
- ✅ SpaceX will Lead the Charge in Rocket Tourism
Can anyone say “Starship?” While people were less focused on SpaceX’s launches and landings – many as they were in 2021 – everyone couldn’t help but watch every single test of the Starship prototypes in Boco Chica, Texas.
I’ll never forget the successful landing – and then accidental re-ignition and landing – of SN10.
- ✅ Star Parties will be Re-Imagined to Improve Public Outreach after 2020
After a year with no star parties, many public events were held in 2021, reimagined to keep the public safe but still enjoying the night sky. I’m excited to announce I may be part of a few of these in the coming year, too.
- ✅ People Will Continue to Look Skyward, Even at Home
It’s hard to measure interest in space and astrotourism, though there were certainly a lot of headlines about it. The IDA added 30+ new dark sky places to its map – a double-digit increase for sure in the number of protected places around the globe.
As for personal interest, I don’t have numbers but I did se a lot of my fellow writers covering dark sky locations, meteor showers, and other astrotourism topics. Any time y’all want an interview or expert quote, I’m here. 😉
2022 Space Tourism Predictions
So what’s next? First flights, giant leaps, they’re all interesting and headline-grabbing – but will space tourism become commonplace in 2022?
That’s not likely based on the economics and timelines of rocket launches, but it is the case that space tourism will continue taking steps toward maturity as an industry. You likely won’t see prices come down or space hotels any time soon, but that’s need to despair that the long-awaited dream of space tourism isn’t all its cracked up to be.
I chatted with Matt Gohd, CEO of ZERO-G – the company that provides parabolic microgravity flights here on earth, and is apparently a bit of a ‘gateway drug’ for future space tourists. Here are some space tourism predictions about the future, from that conversation.
Prediction #1: No New Customers Will Fly in 2022
Gohd estimates that the two main players in the suborbital space tourism game are likely booked up through 2022.
“I’m guessing Blue [Origin] is pretty well set for 2022,” estimates Gohd. “And with Virgin [Galactic] not getting back up til Q3 or later with 600-700 people with deposits before anyone can book,” purchasing a seat and flying this year will be tricky.
Looking further into the future, “if you want to go on a flight with Elon [Musk], there’s not a lot of capacity for the next few years, and both Space Perspectives and World View [Enterprises] are looking at 2024-ish launches.”
All that said, some of the customers who will fly in 2022 put deposits down 10-15 years ago; if you have the funds to reserve your spot and only have to wait 2-3 years, that’s a pretty reasonable situation.
Prediction #2: Experiences Will Reign Supreme
Any company that can offer an unforgettable space or space-esque (in the case of ZERO-G) experience will see growth in the coming year and beyond.
“People have an increased awareness for cool experiences,” says Gohd. “The quest for experiences transcends the need for things.” Maybe it’s driven by the performative nature of social media or just a realization of what really matters after two-plus years of living through a pandemic, but this year, people are ready and willing to slap down a credit card or empty a savings account for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“Our scheduled flights are already filling up, including one that’s already sold out,” Gohd shares as an indication of demand. “This is the only way to feel what it’s like to be an astronaut,” he told the Miami Herald.
For many people, it may be the pinnacle of their space tourism experiences – many of the people who’ve been fortunate enough to experience space tourism through companies like Blue Origin have also flown a ZERO-G flight.
Prediction #3: Welcome to the Soaring 20s
While 2022 might not sound like much will happen from a space tourism perspective, that’s no deterrent to anyone who’s interested in the industry – as an operator or future tourist.
“We’re excited to be where we are, as well as [for] the other players in the market,” says Gohd. “Welcome to the Roaring 20s.” Perhaps soaring is a better term, all puns intended.
Once Virgin Galactic works through its backlog of reservations and Blue Origin releases pricing for their flights, the reusability and reliability of suborbital space tourism should help drive price down and hopefully make it accessible to more travelers. Additionally, many of us who can never afford a six-figure flight to space will find new and thrilling alternatives: five-figure balloon rides, and microgravity flights that come in at a cool $7,500-$8,000 per person.
That still sounds like a lot, but it’s within reach for any of us who stick to those savings resolutions for 2022.
Which of these space tourism predictions do you think will come true? Let me know in the comments!