Space tourism is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: space tourism. Space tourists book space vehicle tickets for the chance to experience space on their own, on journeys of varying lengths. On a suborbital spaceship, for example, a space tourist could only get a few minutes into space, just long enough to experience weightlessness and savor space, while other space tourists book tickets on orbital flights, traveling in space for hours. or days at the same time. In the late 2000s, space tourism was largely hypothetical, but the foundations were being laid to turn it into a major industry.
Humans have long been interested in space, and when manned space flights started launching in the mid-20th century, a number of people got excited about the potential of space tourism. Several nations have expressed interest as well, with savvy governments and corporations realizing it could be quite profitable if managed well. It was Russia that pushed this process from an interesting concept to a reality, bringing Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, into space in 2001.
Some governments have been reluctant about the concept of space tourism, arguing that it is dangerous, expensive, and serves no practical purpose. Others argue that if people can afford to go and have an interest in space travel, they might as well make this option available. By encouraging space tourism, governments could also benefit from the revenue and could set legal limits, ensuring that visits are as safe as possible for everyone.
Some people don’t like the term “space tourism”, since “tourism” has pejorative associations for some. “Personal spaceflight”, “private research” and “civilian spaceflight” are all used as euphemisms for the phrase. Whatever it may be called, space tourism is certainly a status symbol, with people paying large sums of money for even the shortest of suborbital flights, not to mention flights on ships that are actually capable of reaching orbit. According to reports, it is also a fantastic experience, which gives people the chance to see the Earth from space and to experience the weightlessness and vastness of the universe.
Fancy books and comics from the 1960s seemed to suggest that everyone would be space tourists by 2000, happily traveling between planets, visiting luxurious space hotels, and even piloting their own spaceship. Just like flying cars and many other 1960s future dreams, this one didn’t come true, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen someday.