Things aren’t going so great on the planet Earth right now, and travel isn’t easy, but if you’ve got a bit of cash, you can really get away. A number of well-capitalized companies have been hacking away at Space Tourism, or commercially flying “regular” people into space, and now it’s on the verge of reality. Thanks to a great deal of financial and human capital put in by organizations ranging from NASA to billionaire-backed startups, we are inches close to turning it into reality.
Space vacation packages come in a wide variety. For beginners, British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is offering a 1.5-hour joy ride to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA is opening the International Space Station to private citizens. And, for hard-core space explorers, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has promised to fly you to the Moon (for a hefty price) in as soon as 2023.
Below we’ve put together the latest statuses of various space tourism projects in the market.
Virgin Galactic’s 90-Minute Suborbital Ride
Destination: Edge of the Earth’s atmosphere
Price: $250,000 per person
Earliest available time: late 2020
Virgin Galactic’s supersonic spaceplane, VSS Unity, will fly passengers up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) above sea level, which is right above the Kármán Line dividing the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. From there, passengers will get a stunning view of the Earth’s curvature. Then, during the descent, they will experience several minutes of weightlessness like a true astronaut.
VSS Unity has completed two successful human test flights and is in its final stage of testing. Virgin Galactic plans to fly its first paying customer, possibly the company’s founder Richard Branson himself, as soon as this year.
Blue Origin’s Vertical Suborbital Ride
Destination: The edge of the Earth’s atmosphere
Price: $200,000 and $300,000
Earliest available time: unknown
Blue Origin, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is developing a suborbital tourism program similar to Virgin Galactic’s but using a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing (VTVL) rocket-capsule system called New Shepard. The New Shepard spacecraft has successfully flown above the Kármán Line and returned to the ground.
Blue Origin had planned to launch its first human test flight in 2019 and begin selling commercial tickets (reportedly priced between $200,000 and $300,000) soon after. Yet, the plan was quietly canceled last year. The company has yet to make public statements about new test and rollout dates.
NASA’s Multi-Day ISS Getaway
Destination: International Space Station
Price: $35,000 per night
Earliest available time: late 2020
In June 2019, NASA unveiled its grand plan to allow private citizens to fly to the International Space Station under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Passengers will fly in either SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft or Boeing’s Starliner vessel.
The Crew Dragon recently completed its final crewed test and is ready to be deployed for commercial missions. NASA has said it will allow up to two private trips to the ISS a year, each lasting up to 30 days. The total cost of the trip would be around $50 million per person, the agency said.
SpaceX’s ‘Back to the Moon’ Package
Destination: the Moon
Price: “Not a trivial amount’
Earliest available time: 2023
Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX has the ultimate space vacation offering: a personalized trip to the Moon. The package has one committing customer so far: Japanese fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa, who signed up for the trip in September 2018 and has put down an undisclosed deposit. Musk has said the full ticket price is “not a trivial amount.”
SpaceX is currently building prototypes for the rocket (Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) rocket) and spaceship (Starship) that will fly Maezawa to the Moon. If all tests go according to the plan, a human launch could take place as early as 2023.