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! In the past three years, the space tourism industry has developed – but each year has been a step on a long journey. Again this year, I’m making predictions for the space tourism and astrotourism industries; I also want to recap my 2020 space tourism predictions to see how accurate I was.
Here are four space tourism predictions for 2021, showing how far the industry has come – and hopefully how far we’ll go this year.
2020 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… And how accurate my predictions were.
- ✅ Interest in Astrotourism Will Continue to Grow
While I didn’t predict how this would come to pass, the rise of stargazing as a COVID-safe activity has certainly been a benefit for astrotourism as an industry.
- ✅ Rocket Tourism Will See Record Numbers
There were 97 successful launches in 2019 (102 total launches), and 102 successful launches in 2020 (112 total launches). While I don’t have numbers on launch attendance, I think it’s safe to say that people are increasingly interested in rocket launches and even test launches. One great example is the SpaceX Starship chronicles currently happening in Boca Chica.
- ❌ 25 New Dark Sky Places Certified by IDA
As of writing, the IDA certified 20 new dark sky places in 2020. That’s not as many as I predicted. But it’s certainly an impressive number of new places where the night sky is revered and protected.
- ❌ Off-Beat Aurora Destinations Take Center Stage
I had originally intended to look at my year-over-year traffic for off-beat aurora destinations like Finland, Tasmania, Scotland, Greenland, and Russia as evidence of this goal. They’re all down, as I’d expect given the year we had, so it’s hard to know if this is true or not!
- ❌ Can We Go to Space Already?
This has been one of my long-standing predictions since I started writing these in 2017; this year was again a disappointment in terms of actually seeing space tourism happen.
I was definitely off on some of my predictions… But that’s the fun of making them and seeing how close we get. One of these years we’ll finally get space tourism for sure – will it be 2021?!
Space Tourism Predictions for 2021
Now that we’ve reviewed my space tourism predictions from last year, it’s time to discuss my space tourism predictions for 2021. Let me know in the comments which ones you think will be accurate.
This year, I’ve also been a bit more specific in defining how I’ll measure the success or failure of each prediction. This will help show how accurate I am in my predictions.
1. This is The Year… Right?
Okay surely 2021 will be the year we see paying customers fly to space. Virgin Galactic continues to make strides in their final round of test flights, and we all know Richard Branson is chomping at the bit for his flight.
I predict that Virgin Galactic will be the first one to accomplish this. And I’ll say again that I think it will be “this year”. (I put it in quotes, because we all say “this year” every year!)
How will I measure success on this prediction? This prediction is binary. So if any company sends paying customers to space (or the edge of it) this year, I’ll count this as a successful prediction.
2. SpaceX will Lead the Charge in Rocket Tourism
As we’ve seen, nobody can command attention like Elon Musk. After an incredible year (multiple successes with Crew Dragon, ongoing Starship tests), SpaceX is looking at another great year.
I predict that SpaceX will continue to draw the biggest crowds for all of the work they’re doing. They will continue pushing the envelope in developing technology to make us a multi-planetary species.
How will I measure success on this prediction? I’ll use SpaceX Youtube Livestream data as an analog for public interest in their tests and launches. I’ll compare that to total viewing numbers and 2020 viewing data. If SpaceX is the leader and total viewer numbers are up year over year, I’ll count that as success on this prediction.
3. Star Parties will be Re-Imagined to Improve Public Outreach after 2020
Interest in stargazing and astronomy events was definitely up in 2020 thanks to the ability to enjoy these socially distant ways. Unfortunately, the pandemic had another effect: limited public outreach through events and star parties.
Showing people the night sky is critical to ensuring they understand how incredible this resource is and want to protect it. I think therefore we’ll see star parties and night sky festivals reimagined in 2021 to be more pandemic-friendly. That could be live-streaming them or coming up with ways to limit attendance but offer more nights. I know that astronomy groups will be creative to continue showing the wonders of the night sky to as many people as possible.
How will I measure success on this prediction? I’ll keep an eye on some of the big dark sky festivals and star parties (like the Grand Canyon Star Party). If those happen this year in any form rather than being cancelled for a second year, I’ll count success on this prediction.
4. People Will Continue to Look Skyward, Even at Home
Even without star parties, I think we’ll see a continued interest in the night sky and what’s happening up there. In 2020 we were fortunate to have a few fantastic events like the visibility of Comet NEOWISE and the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. That’s in addition to the recurring events like the Perseids and Geminids.
In 2021, I predict more people will be interested in all of these big events – and any newly discovered astronomical sights or events too.
How will I measure success on this prediction? I’ll look at traffic on my monthly night sky guides and annual event posts (like meteor shower guides). I’ll also keep an eye on my city stargazing guides (which people use to find stargazing spots in their area) to determine if there’s more interest. If there are increases year over year, I’ll count that as success on this prediction.
Which of these space tourism predictions do you think will come true? Let me know in the comments!