What Kind of Space Tourist Are You?
Related: More space travel and astronomy news
Want official astronaut status?
If you’re looking to officially earn your astronaut wings, you’ll need to cross the 50-mile mark above the Earth, at least according to the United States. Soar to this altitude and beyond on board Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, a SpaceShipTwo-class craft that seats two pilots and six passengers. It’s successfully completed two test flights that reached that height — where passengers will experience weightlessness for a few minutes — first in December 2018, then again in February 2020, so hopefully it’ll be flying passengers soon. If you want to be among the first into space, join the 600-strong queue by putting down a refundable $1,000 deposit toward a $250,000 ticket.
Want to experience a rocket launch from inside the capsule?
If you’re looking for a real-deal rocket launch experience, you’ll want to sign up with Blue Origin, which will fly space tourists to the stars in its New Shepard system. Like Roscosmos’ Soyuz and SpaceX’s Dragon, New Shepard offers vertical takeoffs via a rocket, with passengers nestled into a capsule. That means your experience comes complete with a countdown, crushing g-forces during launch (you’ll feel up to three times the gravity of earth), weightlessness in space, and a parachute landing. While you can sign up for a spot now, ticket prices haven’t officially been released, though they’ll likely cost around $250,000.
Want to leisurely experience the Overview Effect?
If you want to experience a powerful emotional reaction to seeing the whole of the planet — a.k.a. the “Overview Effect” — but you don’t want to deal with the physical stress of a rocket launch, consider becoming a “bloonaut.” Spain-based Zero2infinity has a pod called a Bloon that will gently carry four passengers and two pilots to near-space — an altitude of 22 miles — via a massive balloon. Then there’s the company Space Perspective, which will also float guests to the edge of space via a balloon-and-pod system, this one called Spaceship Neptune. On both journeys, you won’t be able to experience zero-g, but you will be able to snap a selfie with the curvature of the Earth — and even have a cocktail and dinner. Neither company has officially announced launch dates, but Space Perspective’s test flight is scheduled for early 2021.
Want to keep it green?
Launching into space isn’t the most eco-friendly endeavor, given the vast quantities of fuel burned in the process. But enter the two-seater SolarStratos, a 27-foot-long solar-powered aircraft with 240 square feet of solar cells that will take passengers into the stratosphere in a green manner. Its cruising altitude — about 60,000 feet, which is more than 1.5x higher than most commercial planes fly — technically isn’t space, but you’ll be able to see the curvature of the Earth from up there. A maiden voyage is tentatively planned for 2022.
Just want to be weightless?
Who needs space? If experiencing zero gravity is what spaceflight is all about for you, book a reduced-gravity flight. The Zero Gravity Corporation offers passengers simulated weightlessness on parabolic flights: pilots fly planes in massive arches, and at their apex, the passengers inside experience nearly 30 seconds of weightlessness, where they’re free to fly about the cabin. (This is one of the ways Hollywood films zero-gravity scenes for movies!) The plane does this fifteen times, so you get a total of six and a half minutes of weightlessness during your flight. The best part is that it’s relatively affordable compared to the other options here — just $5,400.
Are you all about the International Space Station?
For you, the International Space Station (ISS) is humanity’s greatest achievement. Those six men and women who orbit our planet at 17,000 m.p.h. for months on end are the true pioneers of our species, and you’d give anything to be among them. You’ll want to keep your eye on Space Adventures, which is the only space tourism company that has already sent people to space. The company has booked multi-day trips to the ISS for seven private citizens so far, though none since Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté in 2009. Russian space agency Roscosmos, however, has announced that it will send two tourists to the ISS with Space Adventures in 2023, one of whom will participate in a spacewalk. If you’re interested in the program, budget about $50 billion for this one, plus months of training.
Want to stay in a space hotel?
If a day trip isn’t your idea of a true journey to space, you’ll be excited to know that there are plans for the universe’s first space hotel. Space tourism company Orion Span intends to open the Aurora Space Station, an as-of-yet unbuilt modular structure that will orbit the Earth at roughly 200 miles in altitude, in 2022. Guest count: just six. Bookings are open and start around $9.5 million for a 12-night stay (and yes, that includes your flight!).
There’s also a second station on the horizon. After Axiom Space completes its ISS mission, it intends to build its own space station to host private astronauts — it’s tentatively scheduled for launch in 2024. Though rates are not yet available, the company has already tapped star designer Philippe Starck to do the interiors, so we’re sure it’ll be a swanky affair.