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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Space tourism: Will it catch on?
US businessman Dennis Tito has become the world's first space tourist.
Mr Tito blasted off on a 10-day trip to the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday and has paid Russian space chiefs a reported $20m (£14m) for the privilege.
The flight is a dream come true for the Californian financier, who has been trying to join the elite club of space travellers for decades.
Many believe that this is just the beginning of space tourism and plans are in place for huge "luxury cruisers" which will carry up to 500 tourists into space for prices starting at "just" $100,000.
Are you interested? Will travelling to the outer limits catch on? Or is it sunshine and sand for you?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
It's hard to imagine that the space age has lasted for half a century and only now in 2001 do we have the first space tourist. By now we should have gone to Mars and colonised the Moon. It's all very well saying that this is just science fiction but had we kept the space programme on, 2001 really could have been 2001!
I wonder how long before Branson is sniffing around this new route?
I understand from the BBC that James Cameron is hoping to visit the ISS by 2003. Is it too much to hope that he might stay there and therefore ensure that he does not subject us to more insulting travesties like 'Titanic'?
Bravo, Tito, I am proud of you...you will be forever in the Earth history book. I think Russia will have to start building a new MIR-2 outpost station (together with "space bus") which can be used as a space hotel, not just because it's profitable, because other nations need to know more about the cosmos, and how our Earth is small. The Earth is just a cradle, normal man cannot spend his whole life in cradle...so let's go farther into space...
Dave, Vancouver Canada
I think it will catch on. Initially, as in every other field, it will be the privileged wealthy who get first bite but that will change.
It was less than 20 years after flight was "invented" that planes took on fare-paying passengers. It has been 40 years since we first went into space. Surely it's about time those "elitist few" opened up the doors and let the general population in on the excitement. Had I the money, I'd book a ticket right now.
I think it won't catch on until the fares are a little bit cheaper.
I think space is dramatised that much on TV and in films that people will not really think they're missing anything - it'll be the thrill of the ride that appeals more.
I think that space tourism will catch on but will everyone pay large sums of money just to do something that Neil Armstrong did in 1969?
I for one am more than happy for Mr. Tito. Maybe he is opening the door to space for the rest of us. I will probably not live long enough to get to space myself, but maybe the young people of today will get there. Access to space for the chosen few will come to an end eventually one way or another. All who dare to have a right to reach for the stars.
I doubt it will take off (if you pardon the pun!). Just look at the economics of Concorde - there are not enough people out there with the kind of cash needed. And if there are, perhaps they should be taxed a bit more!
Tito endangered nobody's life, was not a burden on anyone, went through all the training and paid his way. I'm just surprised that NASA, who is continuously looking for ways to save and raise money, would be hostile to something that can become a lucrative business and can fund their scientific endeavours. Right now they are funded taxpayers who are no closer to visiting their "purchases" than they were 200 years ago.
Most people are forgetting that scientists only recently started going to space, before that it was military personnel and pilots. The fact that a lay person can become an astronaut and visit space should be a cause to celebrate. Dennis Tito is the first person in half a century of space flight to prove that space is a viable place for our children. He should go down in history as a pioneer in his own right.
NASA started it by taking John Glenn up for a birthday present. Both his trip and Tito's were wasteful and dangerous.
Jack Simpson, USA
I'd love to go to space and wait for the day when I can afford to pay for it.
If this is a way of generating a lot more money for space research then I'd say "go for it". Of course participants should have to sign away all rights to sue, if something goes wrong. I'm sure that, like me, many feel that commitment has decreased since the Apollo landings. If there had been enough money and determination we would probably have put men on Mars by now. Maybe space tourism might help us achieve this goal. For the vast majority who can't afford a trip outright perhaps some form of lottery would prove an excellent way of getting even more money in.
I think to actually view the Earth from space (not on TV) would completely alter everyone's perception of how we all co-exist on this insignificant piece of rock. I await the day I can go with excitement.
Mr Tito's visit to the ISS is marvellous! Your report of NASA reaction highlights their elitist attitude. It is NOT a issue of safety but of power and big-brother control.
It is a great idea to be able to go into space for research purposes, however not for fun. I believe it will be elitist and damage the ozone further.
Raising mass out of the Earth's gravitational field is a very expensive business. It has been estimated that the cost of an astronaut carrying a single ballpoint pen on the Apollo missions (in terms of extra fuel load) may have been as much as £50,000. So, in order to be profitable, the proposed craft for 500 space-tourists will necessarily require them to be packed in like sardines. The threat of deep vein thrombosis is worrying enough in conventional airliners due to the limited opportunity for passengers to extend their legs. But the likelihood of this life-threatening condition being aggravated in low orbits under negligible accelerations for long periods of time, and the increased possibility of incremental damage to both somatic and semantic tissues from cosmic rays in a properly shielded craft are likely to be immeasurable. As such, most doctors would advise against space travel on the basis of severe danger.
Arri London, EU/US
Astronauts have many times said that once someone has seen Earth as a whole, it is hard to see it in parts again. Maybe every world leader should be sent into space for a week.
A week in the International Space Station is like a week in a cell of a maximum security prison (maybe worse). However I wouldn't mind a 1-2hr space flight if it's 100% safe. If not, virtual reality will do it for me.
Of course the space industry should be helped with revenue from space tourism. Perhaps that way, we may finally get a manned mission to Mars before most of us retire!
With finite resources here on Earth, space really is our future. If the explorers of the 15th and 16th centuries had waited for the creation of a perfect society before they set off on their travels, no-one would have ventured further than their own coastline. Space tourism will provide an important boost, financially and socially, to our inexorable migration towards the stars.
In every exploration, from Neolithic times to the present, there was always an elite group of explorers that went first. When the first wave of tourists began to follow, they were wealthy, desperate or forced.
Only when the second wave of tourism began - when the tourism infrastructure was in place, the destinations became desirable and the cost dropped to middle class affordability - did the opportunity become fully realised. Humans are forever reaching out. Our hand has now extended that much further. Tito has every right to appropriate Neil Armstrong's words as this step forward is as significant, if not more so, to the people of the world as the first steps on the moon.
I think NASA should be supporting Dennis Tito instead of trying to hinder his marvellous achievement of being the first tourist in space. It's time that these egocentric bureaucrats at NASA realise that space should be available for everyone, not just an elite few. All I can say is Good One on You Russia, another First in Space!
Simon Cornforth, UK
I'd go if it was remotely affordable - like the price of a new car. It'll surely be a big business within a couple of decades.
I hope Dennis Tito learns how to drive the rocket into space. Then, when he comes back, he could buy it and set up some kind of space tourism business.
Do any of you "Trekkies" out there realise how uncomfortable and deadly outer space is? If you want to be constantly bombarded with radiation, watch your bones and muscles degrade, drink your steak and chips through a straw, get used to using a vacuum cleaner as a toilet, and spend your time never knowing which way is "up", then go for it.
Me...after being designed for thousands of years to exist in our atmosphere, gravity, temperature and protection from solar radiation, I think I'll go to the Canaries!
Peter Cook, USA
Yet another case of Just Because It Can Be Done, It Should Be Done. Well, so many beautiful places on the planet's surface have been visually and culturally ruined by all the tatty, grasping paraphernalia of commercial tourism, so I suppose it's only a matter of time before the same fate befalls "the final frontier."
Since the entire space program (here in America) was built on the backs of the American taxpayer, I'd like to see an increase in space tourism. That way, we could all be refunded our share for this 'commercial' venture. I don't pay taxes to support other 'private' facilities for the rich and famous (other than Congress of course). By all means, let's use more tax dollars to find diversions to spice up the droll and boring lives of the well-to-do!
Don't think I'd bother really. There are still far to many interesting and beautiful places ON Earth to see before I'd want to spend lots of money to go up into space
The idea that this has just broken open a huge rush into space by tourists is kind of silly. I don't think we need worry about camera-clad tour groups in Hawaiian shirts dumping empty oxygen canisters all over Tranquility Base. The cost is not going to go down anytime soon. "Space Tourism" will be a novel way to separate the extremely wealthy from their money, while giving them the ride of their lives.
If they can help defray the huge costs of this research, and are willing to meet the training and physical requirements, I say let them subsidise it!
Michael Pala, UK
If I could afford it, I would love to see our beautiful earth from space. After saving for a charter supersonic flight on Concorde for three years, I felt privileged to have done that, and got so close to space. Concorde was a wonderful experience, but space would be the next logical and wonderful step.
It also makes you appreciate what a precious earth we are lucky enough to live on.
Congratulations, Mr. Tito, on bucking the system and putting this whole space adventure into perspective. I entirely agree with the Russians, it's about time NASA looked at what they have to offer and offered it to the public. For sure it's not affordable for everyone, but then they don't have the capacity to take a whole lot of people up there at once.
Mr. Tito and our Russian space colleagues are to be congratulated!
I applaud Mr Tito for his perseverance, but I hope that mass space tourism is postponed until a vastly less polluting method of reaching orbit is developed.
I, like Mr Tito, share the same dream since childhood, and I would love to make such a trip. After 50 years of space programmes reserved exclusively to astronauts, I think it's time for ordinary people (like me) to have a go too.
Ian Stimson, UK
Can anybody think of anything more boring than floating around in confined space, frightened to touch anything in case you break it? Fair enough, the take-off would be fun - as would the landing - but come on... get a life. Tito is probably bored to death and already writing his book to pass the time. Also, let's focus on Earth before we go further afield in the cosmos looking for other planets to destroy.
Never mind popping up for a holiday - the way we're treating our own planet, soon space will be the only place open for us!
What's the point in travelling away from everything and everyone into the absolute void emptiness of timeless space?
Paul Drinkwater, UK
I would be interested in seeing some research into the environmental costs of each launch into space. I guess that the main damage is to the atmosphere, especially the upper atmosphere.
I did once see a comparison of one jet liner producing the equivalent damage of 4000 badly tuned older cars.
The upper layers of the atmosphere are especially sensitive to pollution, from dumping re-entry vehicles too.
It's a great idea. I'd like to think that fifty years from now, taking a 'vacation' into space will be as common and harmless as taking one at a typical seaside resort. I'd relish the opportunity to launch into space. It must be a fantastic sight. I envy Mr Tito and I hope he enjoys his trip.
John McVey, Edinburgh, Scotland
I would only go into space if they did air-miles.
Commercial aviation didn't exactly start out as low-cost, low-risk.
If I had that kind of money to burn and my family were pleased to be rid of me, I would be queuing up for the ride on that booster too. I would be less happy about the shuttle though. Reliability needs simplicity and the shuttle is a bit too advanced to be reliable for this potential space-tourist.
When Tito returns to Earth, everybody dress up in ape suits. Pass it on!
His flight - the first tourist space flight - is the beginning of the era. And Russians made it possible. Just as the first satellite, the first man in the space (Gagarin), the first man stepping out of a spaceship into the open (Leonov), the longest stay in a spaceship. We did all of it. Even after sinking the Mir (which has more than paid off for itself by contributing to the mankind's knowledge), Russia's still setting milestones in the opening up of space. I personally can hardly stand sea ships, let alone spaceships... so all the more thumbs up for Tito and the Russian Space Agency.
Nice if you can afford it. Just goes to show the gap between haves and have-nots isn't getting any smaller.
I am interested in astronomy, but at the moment I would rather stay on the blue planet and look at the heavens. And the cost involved outweighs my interest in astronomy.
John Ngassa, Britain
They would have to pay ME to set foot in a space ship.
And they would then have to drag me screaming and kicking into the wretched thing.
Love Star Wars, love Star Trek: don't need or desire the real experience.
I found NASA objections to Dennis Tito's trip a bit ironical. Christa McAuliffe who was a school teacher with a degree in history, was selected by NASA for the ill-fated Challenger trip in 1986. Surely Dennis Tito with his background as rocket scientist who has in fact worked for NASA is no less qualified for the trip.
Money makes the world and the universe go around apparently
Ed Butcher, Wales
Tourism is the biggest industry on the planet, why shouldn't it be the biggest one off it?
I'd love the chance to go into space and I expect that in the years to come it will become more popular and affordable. In a way it's a bit like any new opportunity; initially for the filthy rich then gradually becoming more accessible. I just hope it happens soon.
I think it will pay off for Tito. Not only does he get a great experience but when he gets back he will be a minor celebrity. By writing a book, doing media interviews and speeches he should be able to recoup a reasonable amount of his outlay. As for me, I've offered the wife a place on the Mars mission!
Jonathan Farber, UK
I'm sure the appeal of space tourism has significantly decreased since astronauts from the MIR space station reported that they spent months in a hot, humid atmosphere that smelt of fungus and dirty socks.
Where can I sign up?......
Tito's trip will be seen as a watershed in opening up space flight to the masses. I find significant irony in his trip, as this huge first step in commercial space tourism was brought to us by a country without a strong history of free enterprise.
Russia has added another first to add to its list of impressive space accomplishments. One has to applaud their pragmatism and vision. A successful mission will not only have other tourists lining up at their door step, but will provide a significant positive boost for both their commercial launches and their international credibility.
The US missed a huge opportunity here, I believe thanks in part are due to our increasingly litigious and therefore risk-averse culture
Up until now commercial activity in space has largely been confined to launching satellites. Space tourism further extends the scope of human endeavour beyond our world, and provided that it's carried out with proper regard for safety I think it can only be a good thing.
I wouldn't mind a go at it as soon as they sort out how to make space commodes work.
Of course I'd go. After decades of waiting for mankind to get back to the Moon, explore Mars etc, it has become increasingly obvious that there is a major problem with the way 'space exploration' is being run. Governments have neither the politcal will nor the money - let alone the vision - to get the job done. They think in 4-5 year time frames and put re-election before the greater good.
I say let's open the programmes up to private industry and a first step towards that has got to be demonstrating profitability whether it comes from asteroid mining or tourism who cares. Good luck Tito, you've taken a step forward for us all.
Zoltan Bartalis, Canada/Sweden
I think rich people paying to get into space is a great thing. Investors who fund (or would fund) space tourism ventures will see there really are people willing to shell out the loot to get there, and hopefully a real space tourism industry could happen.
For man, who is always destined to experience wonderful things, space is simply a dreaming destination. By his nature, he should be fascinated by the thought of soaring in space. But as it is a very expensive journey, one has to be either a Gagarin or a Tito to secure that privilege. For one should be a space scientist or a millionaire to smell any chance of it. An ordinary tourist of this era can imagine being there only if scientists can discover a cheap blasting machine, a sort of a flying saucer.
Space is the final frontier and who would not want to play Star Trek? There is bad news, however, as it promises to be the most unearthly experience at the same time it is also the most expensive.
I think space tourism should be discouraged and instead, tourism of third world countries should be encouraged who are
desperate for every bit of cash that may come their way.
As for the common people, I don't expect any reasonable price (if you consider $100,000 reasonable) to be attainable in any less than 20 years. As for me, I know I can wait 20 years...
I agree that space-tourism is a matter of time. But we can't refuse now. Tito's money is vitally important for Russian space projects. Everybody knows that our science of space stations is the best, but we have no money to develop. If we get the money we need, we'll help our planet and international flights.
I wouldn't want limited space-related resources going to give the rich and famous an ego-trip around the world. Until we can fly a shuttle to the Moon or Mars and have the dome space to open up a Hilton, let's keep space science and exploration based. And if a rich person still wants to go? Than send your CV to Nasa.
Of course space travel will catch on! I am not particularly interested, but there are many people who have been obsessed with space from an early age. As soon as it is affordable and perhaps even before it is really safe, there will be thousands queuing up to see space close up.
If Tito can afford to subsidise the Russians then let him. People who spend money drive economies, people who hoard their cash just slow down progress.
Dave Thomas, UK
This is one of the ways to raise money to increase space research and exploration. It is becoming more and more expensive to continue space exploration. In the beginning only Russia and US could do it, now in the case of the Space Station there are many countries involved.
Many very rich people are capable of paying such a high price and we should take this opportunity.
As an environmentalist AND an adventurer I am torn between the arguments for and against space tourism. I would definitely jump at the opportunity for space travel if I had it, but would hope that efficient technology is soon developed which alleviates the pollution and wastage produced by current launches. The theory is here now and will only be put into practice once mass-production brings down the costs. I'm eager and waiting!
We have scarred this earth... now let us mess with space (we have, already)!!
If I had the money, I would invest in salvaging what is left of our planet earth!
In the future, space travel will be something that people will do once, and once only. It will not be the near future either, because I don't think that most people can afford $20m. I believe that we should spend more time and money on researching how to exploit the natural resources of other planets.
Commercial space flight is dogged with a terrible safety record. Who would want to fly by aeroplane if 1 in 10 flights crashed? Or 1 in 100? Tito knows the risks and was prepared to take them for the novelty of it. I'll wait a few decades for the technology to prove itself before I buy my ticket...
I can't see space tourism as a problem if it is properly dealt with. As in these (still) early stages of manned spaceflights, when one cannot blame space tourism being mass tourism, benefits are certainly worth the possible risks. During this short space-age history, I don't remember any organisation ever complaining about new possibilities to get more funds in the space programme, whether national or international.
And when tourists are well trained and prepared for the space flight, I believe they won't harm the scientific work done at the ISS. In fact, has anyone thought about having a scientific study on space tourism? Now there's a concept to study further.
I think the biggest mistake we make is in thinking that space tourism is somehow "good" for the human race. Space tourism means space colonisation, by autocratic kingdoms (companies).
There's staggering poverty, desolation, and aggression in the world already to deal with, why are we so excited about jumping out of our world? The metaphor of staring at the stars while living in the gutter comes to mind. Worst, we're not even concerned about cleaning the gutter.
If it took every penny I made in my life to go into space, I wouldn't even hesitate. This isn't some great moralistic crusade that some in the forum would make it out to be. This is about going 5000 mph, and seeing the Earth and the heavens like few others ever get the chance to. Bon voyage Dennis Tito.
Phil Harrison, Canada
I like many others here think that space tourism is inevitable. But we are long way off even the $100,000 ticket type of package. There is still much to be done to make even low Earth orbit (LEO) tourism feasible. We need massive investment in LEO infrastructure with permanently manned space stations on a far grander scale than the present ISS.
It is however the right way to go. It would enable the development of spacecraft designed to be launched from such stations instead of being ground launched. They would be a more practicable solution for large man-rated payloads destined for deeper space. The Moon initially (this time to stay) and then to Mars and so on.
All this will eventually include tourism but that is not the most important aspect of it.
If I had the money I would love to go into space. I would think it a privilege to see the Earth from above. See other planets would be my idea of heaven. The techology of space travel is here and I belive we should (if we want) have access to the heavens.
It will only be a matter of time before
this trend catches on. There is no
denying that once Tito has set a
precedent, others will want to follow
suit. I would say given 50 years,
space tourism will be as commonplace
as another other forms of travelling.
In fact, on reflecting, I would say this
is just part and parcel of the
advancement of the human civilisation.
As such, I feel this event is worth
What's the alternative to letting people go into space? Do we really want some "anti-space police force" forcing people to stay on Earth.
If we stay on Earth, we will run out of resources. If space tourism can advance the day when we can pull down resources from the moon and asteroids, let's welcome it. Earth is a cradle, not a prison!
It's all fun and games until somebody gets "space rage" and assaults the cabin crew. Where will you put down? Asteroid 2099B?
I think that space should be reserved for the elite astronaut corp. You can't have tourists bumbling around on the ISS, wrecking good space science.
Currently, I don't think space tourism is a good idea. All Tito did was take advantage of the cash-strapped Russian Space Agency. But if they want to send him up there, and if they can do it, so be it. We can't stop him unless we point out to the Russians that in fact WE paid for THEIR part of the International Space Station, but we understandably don't want to cause a rift. Someday it will probably be somewhat affordable to travel to space, but for me, I haven't yet visited all the countries I would lke to.
Antony Shepherd, UK
While I have to admit that going into
space would be absolutely thrilling, I
also feel that it is disgusting that
people will spend any amount of
money for a thrill, yet ignore the
needs of their brothers. If the rich
would only realize how thrilling it
would be to take $20m dollars and
do something about the children in
an impoverished country who dig in
piles of stinking garbage every day
for something to eat. The smiles on
the faces of the children would be
worth far more than a few days in
space. There would be no such
horrible suffering on our beautiful
planet if we would all just readjust
what we consider valuable.
To be given the opportunity to go into space, albeit by having to fund it oneself, would be the ultimate 21st century thrill, giving one the same sense of feeling as the early pioneers must have felt in previous days whether it be in space or on land/sea.
Just imagine the feeling of exhileration of take-off, weightlessness, actually being there in space and the thrill of re-entry. One would certainly have been to the very extent of mankind's achievements and to the forefront of his potential destiny.
Yes, I would definately go!!
I would love to go into space, but I can't see how the pollution could be justified. If it's a regular thing - a true tourist destination, then the amount of fuel burned and pollutants released would just serve to increase the rate at which this beautiful blue jewel is destroyed.
If it served to educate the rich and powerful and moved them to stop polluting it, perhaps a limited environmental price would be acceptable in the short term.
Ever more expensive and rare thrills to destroy the planet. Such tourists should pay in addition the same money again to the UN or some other competent international body for the alleviation of the misery caused by world pollution and global warming - on the basis the polluter should pay. Better still stay at home and learn to appreciate the miracle of our beautiful but fragile planet.
Well, Mr Tito has bought his way into the history books, that's for sure! I can't see paying $100k just for "the view", though... as staggering as I'm sure it must be, I think I'd want a little bit more for my money.
What about pollution? It may be nice to see the earth from space but it is extremely polluting. I have nothing against it as long as it is along with another space mission, but tourism just for tourism would be a scandal.
Stuart Bell, Scotland, UK
This is just the beginning of course. Surely we will see more and more people paying large sums to get this unforgettable space experience in few years time. Certainly I would like to take off to space if the price for it comes down to six figures.
Let's face it: it's the ultimate tourist trip to the ultimate destination. How can it not catch on? But in a world as chaotically disordered as ours, isn't it just so much ostentatious escapism? Let's get our house in order and then fulfil our fantasies.
Tim Jones, UK
I would love to go into space, but I don't think I would be prepared to pay anywhere near £100,000 for it. And I defintely would not if that was only for a cramped space with 499 other people. Some big business should get it together and build a resort either a space station or a base on the moon. Now I might pay £100,000 for a week or two on the moon.
PS: When exactly is someone going to bother going back to the moon, it's the logical place to practice all our deep space exploration ideas and Mars landing schemes.
No, who wants to spend 20 million bucks to sit on a big firework when you can spend fifty quid and go to Blackpool and ride the big dipper? Hmmm it may at that.
Yes, yes, and yes again. It would be the ultimate trip of our lifetime. But what would you do for kicks when you got back?
People are worried about flying over 55,000m in the earth's atmosphere. How would they react to flying in outer space!
If it does catch on, I hope it becomes affordable for at least some sizable percentage of the population by the time we begin to colonize, if that happens.
What better way to finally separate the rich from the poor (once again) than to allow wealthy industrialists to leave the Earth they've so gleefully polluted while the working classes have to stay on the "home planet" and deal with stinking air and poisoned water?
Looking more short term... It may be a good
thing. Perhaps this sort of thing
will help to fund space research,
allowing governments to shift the
funds to hungry poor folk everywhere.
28 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Space tourist blasts off
27 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Profile: Tito the spaceman
27 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Q & A: Space tourism: Dream or reality?
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