Space, the final vacation?

By now most of us are probably familiar with Virgin Group impresario Richard Branson’s plans for his Galactic service, which will take people on flights into the edge of space. There are other companies vying to do similar things on a commercial basis in the United States, but I’m not quite sure many of us […]
Virgin Group's Virgin Galactic is one of the services expected to turn space tourism in the U.S. into a $1-billion-per-year business within 10 years.
By now most of us are probably familiar with Virgin Group impresario Richard Branson’s plans for his Galactic service, which will take people on flights into the edge of space. There are other companies vying to do similar things on a commercial basis in the United States, but I’m not quite sure many of us have gotten around to thinking of this as an “industry,” and certainly not one with “tourists” as we typically think of them. I certainly haven’t. However, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certainly has. The American overseer of the skies estimates that recreational flights to space will be a $1-billion-per year business within 10 years. That was the message the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation delivered to Congress’ House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics today, and it does stand to reason that, with commercial flights on the immediate horizon, that fun flights will follow, though I doubt anyone’s booking the extra-terrestrial version of coach. “This is a new and growing industry,” George Nield, the FAA’s Associate Administrator told the subcommittee. “If you look at the last 25 years, almost all the launches were for the same basic purposes – to launch a satellite, such as a telecommunications satellite, to orbit – and that level of business for that part of the industry is continuing today. But there are several new segments that we see just on the horizon.” NASA has hired companies on a commercial basis to fly cargo to the $100-billion US International Space Station in orbit above earth. However, Branson’s Virgin Galactic has also taken $60 million US in deposits for $200,000 flights, and the FAA is prepared for others to jump into the space fray.


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