May 4 is Space Day, a day dedicated to promoting space exploration to students and fostering interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Americans have been living in the Space Age for nearly 60 years, but the lure and mystery of space and traveling through it remains as strong as ever.
An elite club of fewer than 600 humans share the distinct experience of visiting space and seeing Earth in the rearview mirror. If the depths of space call your name, and your intended astronaut career path didn’t take flight, all is not lost. Private space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin are in various stages of making space vacations a reality.
Click to read more about how much money private and public companies have poured into space.
Virgin Galactic is the brainchild of Virgin empire founder and CEO Richard Branson. Following April’s successful test launch, Branson tweeted, “Space feels tantalisingly close now.” Space plane VSS Unity brings tourists on a 2.5-hour experience, including about five minutes of weightlessness and the view of the Earth’s curvature for a rumored price tag of $250,000.
SpaceX, like its founder and CEO Elon Musk, has galaxy-sized dreams. A space voyage with Musk’s company won’t end at the Karman line, 62 miles into space — his goal is to bring civilians to the moon. SpaceX received a “significant deposit” from two passengers for a trip flight around the moon and back to Earth last year. Musk is known for his optimistic timelines, so skeptics are critical of his claim to colonize Mars, with a $500,000 price tag, starting in 2025.
If you’re a space travel purist and want to be transported via rocket, Jeff Bezos, the man responsible for bringing the world Amazon, might be able to help. Bezos is the founder of Blue Origin, a private space company in the development stage of bringing six individuals aboard a rocket 60 feet tall and launching them beyond the Karman line. The capsule, aptly named New Shepard, will provide space travelers with a comfortable ride and ample windows to stare out into the dark void. No word on the price tag for a round-trip ticket, but based on successful unmanned test launches in April, a company spokesperson said a passenger maiden voyage could be this year.
The experience of weightlessness and space’s deafening silence is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it’s the literal out-of-this-world view that provides a beneficial and humbling new perspective for passengers.
Click to read about the cost to fund Elon Musk’s genius ideas.