Space Tourism – UPSC GS3

Context: The entry of the private sector into the space race brings new dimensions to the monetization of space technology.
Private space tourism projects:
  • Three important private organisations (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX) made huge investments in space projects.
  • VSS Unity spaceship, with six people on board, recently took off from New Mexico and reached an altitude of 85 km from Earth before returning.
  • Amazon founder’s space company named Blue Origin has recently concluded the online auction for the first seat on the New Shephard rocket system.
  • SpaceX even aims to go to MarsSpaceX rockets already supply the International Space Station (ISS) and carry crew to and fro from that facility.
The future of space tourism:
Space tourism could soon be an option for the well-heeled adventure tourist. For instance, Virgin Galactic has received over 500 advance bookings at $250,000 per seat on the VSS Unity.
For comparison, people pay $50,000 to climb Everest in package tours, alongside trainers, and dedicated teams of Sherpa.
Preparation for space tourists:
  • Passengers must be cushioned and protected from high acceleration during the travel period and during the landing.
  • The cabin must be pressurized, and all furniture secured to handle weightlessness.
  • Insulation is required to protect the craft from heat generated by friction.
Advantages of Space tourism missions:
  • The materials used, and the design elements, could be incorporated in safety equipment in cars and bullet trains.
  • Another set of positive consequences may be the clean-up of space debris. The Space Registration Convention of 1976 and the recent Artemis Accords suggest clearing up space debris. The presence of high net-worth tourists will add a sense of urgency.
Challenges with the entry of private players:
  • Private entities tend to be focused on very specific technologies, which have visible payoffs within the foreseeable future.
  • Development in many areas ranging from modern communications, and geo-location systems, to renewable energy usage, weather prediction, etc. are the result of publicly-funded national space agencies that did not look for immediate payoffs.