Space Tourism: As NASA trains four volunteers to live in a habitat that simulates conditions on Mars, the space tourism industry is set to open up a new chapter in space exploration. Companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are investing in new ideas to make space travel accessible to the general public.
History of space tourism
Space tourism began with a Japanese journalist named Toyohiro Akiyama, who spent a week aboard the Russian space station in 1990. The first commercial human space flight occurred in 2001 when Dennis Tito spent seven days aboard the International Space Station. A space tourist is defined as “someone who tours or travels into, to, or through space or to a celestial body for pleasure and/or recreation,” according to Harrington (2017). Space tourism participants are seeking new experiences, making them key market players.
According to a report in Psychology & Marketing Journal, further research should be conducted to determine the extent to which consumers can experience and adopt new space tourism technologies and innovative services.
Development of space economy
Space giants such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and Orion Span are taking new initiatives to start a new chapter in space activities by introducing the concept of space tourism to the general public.
To make space travel accessible for diverse communities, these corporations need to implement and invest in new innovative ideas. With the evolution of several government space agencies in different nations, private giants like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and many others started to appear across several nations.
Founded in 2002, SpaceX has a current net worth of 15.3 billion dollars, providing affordable commercial services for launching payloads to ISS and NEO (Near Earth orbit). SpaceX entered the arena with its Falcon 1 rocket in 2008. In contrast, Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004, with Richard Branson as the founder of the company, and has a net worth of 4.8 billion dollars, as of November 2020. Virgin Galactic is known for providing and developing commercial space flights for tourists at affordable costs.
The space economy can be divided into space-for-earth and space-for-space activities. Space-for-earth activities produce goods or services in space for use on earth. These activities currently dominate the space economy in terms of revenue and include telecommunications and internet infrastructure, earth observation capabilities, national security satellites, and more. In contrast, a high level of growth is being witnessed in space-for-space activities, and the next few decades would attract more players to enter the segment.
Challenges and consequences
With each passing day, new horizons are being explored in the space tourism segment. However, if left unregulated, a formidable space tourism industry may have a greater climate effect than the aviation industry and undo repair to the protective ozone layer.
Researchers from UCL, the University of Cambridge, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), explored the exact impact of rocket launches, using 3D models, and how space tourism would create a larger impact. The team found that rockets’ black carbon (soot) particles are almost 500 times more efficient at holding heat in the atmosphere than all other sources of soot combined, resulting in an enhanced climate effect.
While space tourism presents a new opportunity for businesses and individuals alike, it is important to consider the potential impact on the environment and our planet. Companies in the space industry must take steps to reduce their carbon emissions and minimise their environmental impact.
As we continue to explore the universe and develop new technologies, it is important to remember our responsibility to protect the Earth and ensure that our actions are sustainable. The space economy is rapidly expanding, and it is up to all of us to ensure that this growth is balanced with environmental responsibility.