These travelers are heading for the final frontier.

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Retro-inspired digital photo collages of outer space travel
Credit: Photo Illustration by Mariah Tyler

It's up, up, and away for the space tourism industry, with leisure trips to zero gravity scheduled to start this year. Some of these travelers will be grazing the edge of space on short flights operated by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, while others will be camping out on the International Space Station (ISS) for a week-long vacation.

But these trips aren't only for fun — many space travelers are also interested in research during their missions. Roman Chiporukha, a co-founder of travel firms SpaceVIP and Roman & Erica, says that his clients who are organizing trips to the ISS aren't just tourists.

"Each one has developed a mission purpose, whether fundamental disease research, drug development, MRI and CT scan technology research, or 3-D organic printing. Others are focused on farming and improving food production on Earth. For example, satellite imagery can tell crop yield on a pixel-by-pixel basis, enabling farmers to better decide when to add water or fertilizer and when to harvest," Chiporukha tells Travel + Leisure. "Space technology and the work that can only be done in space can and will have a direct effect on improving life on this planet."

Still, there's no denying that launching into space is exhilarating. To find out what has inspired travelers to book their trips into space, we've spoken to five future space tourists who have put their deposits down and are ready for launch.

Christopher J. Lynch, Author

Text quote: It is a sight that I have dreamed of and fantasized about ever since I was a child looking up to the sky

Author Christopher Lynch isn't just interested in space travel; he was born into it. "I was actually born on the last day that space was a 'virgin,' having come into this world on the day before the Sputnik satellite was launched, ushering in the Space Age," Lynch tells Travel + Leisure. Having already flown on a zero-G flight, where passengers can experience weightlessness just like an astronaut, he's less excited about microgravity and more excited about the views. "It is a sight that I have dreamed of and fantasized about ever since I was a child looking up to the sky," says Lynch. "I won't be doing flips, or spins, or floating around. I will be glued to my window, drinking in the vista of our planet, and they will have to pry me away to get me to abandon it!"

Yusaku Maezawa, Entrepreneur

Text quote: I'm so curious - what's life like in space? So, I am planning to find out on my own.

For lifelong space enthusiast Yusaku Maezawa, a taste of space isn't enough. That's why he's booked a 12-day stay aboard the ISS, organized through space travel company Space Adventures. "I'm so curious — what's life like in space? So, I am planning to find out on my own." Maezawa tells Travel + Leisure, announcing that he'll share the adventure with the world on his YouTube channel. Though the mission launches on December 8 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, this longer-duration orbital spaceflight requires far more training than what Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic passengers will undergo. "I started training in mid-June at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia," says Maezawa, who is documenting the process on Twitter.

After his stay on the ISS, Maezawa is looking to go even deeper into space — all the way around the moon, aboard SpaceX's Starship spacecraft. And he'll be bringing eight lucky guests with him!

Brett Hurt, Entrepreneur

Text quote: You only live once in life, and it is clear that our future includes leveraging space in a much bigger way than we have to date.

Surrounded by science fiction growing up, entrepreneur Brett Hurt, co-founder and CEO of data management company data.world, is excited to get a glimpse of our future. "You only live once in life, and it is clear that our future includes leveraging space in a much bigger way than we have to date," he tells Travel + Leisure. "Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot is especially apt for our current division here on this beautiful planet we call home, in keeping it all in perspective."

To prepare for his flight on Virgin Galactic — he paid for his ticket in full back in 2013 — Hurt is keeping fit. "Traveling at over Mach 3 will be seriously thrilling but will also require some strong core strength, and I feel very well prepared," he says. "I've built up to a 15-minute, 30-second straight-arm plank and am in better shape than I've been in since college, at age 49."

Chris Sembroski, Engineer

Text quote: But most of all, I look forward to seeing the Earth from 500-plus kilometers up and notice those things I cannot see: political lines, borders, cultural divides.

One of the four crew members of the Inspiration4 mission, a three-day orbital journey (and fundraiser for St. Jude's) launching in September on a SpaceX Crew Dragon, mission specialist Chris Sembroski is honored to be part of the philanthropy, first and foremost, but also to be part of history — this will be the first all-private crew to orbit the Earth on a private spacecraft. And, of course, he's looking forward to spending three days in zero-G. "But most of all, I look forward to seeing the Earth from 500-plus kilometers up and notice those things I cannot see: political lines, borders, cultural divides," Sembroski tells Travel + Leisure. "I keep wondering what will that moment feel like when there is only one thin line of atmosphere in view that keeps all of us safe on our beautiful planet below!"

Preparation-wise, Sembroski and his crewmates are undergoing the full SpaceX astronaut training program, from textbook-style studying to hands-on simulations. "We are going to space only six months after our mission was announced, which makes for a very compressed training schedule," says Sembroski. "We are making the most out of every moment with the SpaceX instructors while getting the same training as any other crew before us when it comes to the safe operation of the Dragon spacecraft. It is a lot of work, but we all work very well together."

Joshua Bush, Travel Advisor

Text quote: Everyone who has ever gone says it changes you. It gives you a new vision and understanding. Besides, I heard the ride up was pretty cool, too!

Travel advisor Joshua Bush of Avenue Two Travel is ready for space travel to change his life. "I have always seen travel as a force for good. It provides you understanding, tolerance, it gives you a glimpse into other cultures, thoughts, and ideas. You see things through your own lens that isn't distorted, and the culmination of one's experiences builds your character and who you are as a human," he tells Travel + Leisure. "Going to space is one of those ultimate experiences allowing you to gain a perspective held currently by only a very few. To see the curvature of the Earth while floating weightless. . . I can only imagine how that can change a person."

Like Lynch, Bush is really looking forward to that view. "Everyone who has ever gone says it changes you. It gives you a new vision and understanding," he says. "Besides, I heard the ride up was pretty cool, too!"

Stefanie Waldek is a freelance space, travel, and design journalist — and, hopefully, a future space traveler. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @stefaniewaldek.