What is space tourism?
Space tourism is the term used to describe space travel for recreational or leisure purposes. What was once only a dream - described in books such as Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey - is now becoming a reality.
Futurologists are scientists who attempt to develop predictions of what life will be like in the future. After the first man landed on the moon in 1969, they thought that hotels would be built on the moon by the year 2000. Futurologists also considered the possibility that, in the 21st century, families might go for a holiday on the moon. Neither of these predictions have come true yet - but the rapid development of technology may mean these predictions are a possibility in the years to come.
Space Adventures is currently the only company to have succeeded in sending paying passengers into space. Space Adventures worked with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation and Rocket and Space Corporation Energia to facilitate flights for the world's first private space explorers. Each person paid over $20 million for their 10-day trip to the International Space Station.
Following several successful explorations into space, several companies are now considering the possibility of enabling tourists to visit space. In order to make it more affordable, suborbital space travel is being considered by many companies, including Virgin Galactic. Passengers would be transported to a height of between 100-160km above earth, experience 3-6 minutes of weightlessness and a view of the stars before being taken back down to earth. This is expected to cost around $200,000 per person.
Whilst it could be an enriching experience, there are some disadvantages to space tourism. Many critics have commented that a huge growth in the spaceflight industry could drastically speed up the process of global warming. The ozone layer would be damaged further, and the polar regions would suffer. In addition, space travel is only really a possibility for the super-rich. Although Virgin Galactic claims to be "opening space to the rest of us", there are still millions of people worldwide who wouldn't be able to afford it.