A space odyssey turned into reality in 2001, when a California multi-millionaire Dennis Tito paid $20 million to be taken by the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to spend seven days aboard the International Space Station (ISS). MirCorp and Space Adventures, commercial space companies, helped Tito organize a ride up to the Earth’s orbit. If you think Tito was the only one crazy enough to pay 20 million for a ride to ISS, you are wrong. Between 2001 and 2009, Space Adventures, a company founded in 1998, put seven tourists on board of Soyuz and sent them on a journey to the International Space Station and back to Earth.[/caption]
In 2009, the Soyuz stopped taking passengers on board as the ISS’s crew has increased from three to six people, and therefore all the places aboard Soyuz have been reserved for the astronauts. However, Russia has recently announced that it will be able to send tourist into space again as it plans to increase its production of spacecrafts from four to five vehicles per year. That means that from 2012 two space tourists a year will be able to make their cosmic journey dream a reality.
Although the current cost of a ten-day trip into orbit is estimated at $35 million, the list of candidates eager to fly into space lengthens year by year. At present, only the Space Adventure has been authorized by Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, to select tourist passengers, though a number of space agencies developing their own space tourism programs has started to grow since the beginning of the 2000s.
To conclude, space travel has already become reality and nothing seems to be impossible for those with millions in their pockets. But it’s only a matter of time when the price for a return flight into orbit goes down to become affordable for many of us. Apparently, the Japanese Rocket Society that has been working on space tourism since 1993 estimates that the price for a cosmic trip will decline to between $10,000 and $50,000 in not longer than ten years!
A brief look at the history of aviation would be enough to draw a conclusion that these figures could become real. Who would have thought at the beginning of the 1950s when the development of civil jet grew that fifty years later worldwide air passenger numbers will total to over 4 billion people a year and flights will be at bargain prices?
In the meantime, while waiting for the era of affordable suborbital flights, you may try some other cosmic adventures such as zero gravity flights in specially modified airplanes, witnessing the launching of spacecrafts as they head for the ISS or experience a spacewalk in the real spacewalk simulator. These ultimate space escapades are available starting at around $5,000.