Space Tourism: Soaring or Crawling?


Maximilian Looft

When hasn’t there been a promised future of magnificent rockets and new wondrous technologies, pictures of people living luxuriously on the Moon and beyond? Time and time again, the reality of our future is often disappointing, even when technology does advance. But there has been one constant in recent years, another soon-to-be possibility: Space Tourism.

The concept of space tourism has been in the minds of scientists for decades, ever since a plan to install a passenger module in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle was made, but such plans never materialized. These ideas are increasingly popular today and even more noticeable with SpaceX’s new plan to use their Dragon Crew Capsule for space tourism as early as 2021.

This isn’t SpaceX’s first time trying to capitalize on this idea. As far back as 2018, they announced that in 2023 they would send artists of all backgrounds on a trip around the moon aboard their next rocket, the Big Falcon Rocket (now being called Starship.)

But for the past couple of decades, a fair few companies have formed with the singular goal of space tourism, long before SpaceX had even considered it. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are widely known for their eager goals of getting everyday people — those of whom have a heavy wallet — into Earth’s orbit for at least a few minutes.

But, these companies have had many delays for years, whether they be the need for more testing, not enough funding, or accidents. Virgin Galactic was meant to get customers into orbit back in 2011 and still has yet to reach that goal. Though SpaceX is larger than Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin combined, setbacks are inevitable, as even their mission to send astronauts to the International Space Station aboard their Dragon Crew Capsule has been delayed more than once.

However, a glance would suggest that 2020 is the year for customers to finally board Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity. The vehicle is based in Spaceport America, and according to CNBC is experiencing a massive stock uprise, rising 223 percent in the last three months to $30.30 per share. And, to top it off, CEO Richard Branson is once again suggesting that customer flights will begin by the end of the year.

Even Blue Origin is having some good news, having just opened a new 350,000-square-foot rocket engine factory in Huntsville, Ala., according to Development of the BE-4 rocket for their next heavy-lift vehicle, New Glenn, will begin in the summer.

Perhaps space tourism will be a reality within just a few years. But then again, the same thing has been said before for many years when things were looking just right. This may be the year, or it may not be.