Chairman, Executive Committee
Commercial Space One Tourist At A Time!
Much of what we do in space is based on very sound practical grounds, be that scientific or commercial. Yet many of the people who work on space projects are really driven by a sense of wonder and awe at what the realm of space offers, and the uniqueness of that environment. Their work is a means of connection to the excitement of the final frontier. For the broader public they can vicariously share the excitement by following space activities the world over. However we are on the brink of opening the door to allowing non-space professionals the ultimate opportunity to participate through space tourism.
It was only a few years ago that the mere mention of space tourism would draw quiet chuckles or looks of disdain. Yet today we are on the brink of opening space to those who can afford the price. MirCorp went a long way to proving the commercial viability of a commercial space operation based around space tourism, by demonstrating that a market for such a service existed, even where the price tag was $20M per flight. What was simply a flight of fancy only a few years ago is upon us and the space community is scrambling to respond.
NSS, space entrepreneurs, and visionaries have long contended that space tourism would play a role in opening the space frontier. Reusable Launch Vehicle proponents have developed business plans that look to space tourism as a component of their long term success. Yet the economics of such a service, and the scale of the available market, are not the only important considerations. Issues of passenger safety (especially when we start to envisage lower prices and larger numbers of tourists) come to the fore, as do regulatory issues such as air/space traffic management for winged RLVs, and the liability considerations that may be associated with their operation. NSS has already taken stock of these issues and identified some of the more significant within its Road Map to Space Settlement.
The emergence of space tourism as a serious subject is positive reinforcement of the important role that we as visionaries and activists have to play in pushing the boundaries of space development. It is our identification and pursuit of such ideas and issues that paves the way for them to become mainstream concepts. Through activist efforts we can transform flights of fancy into reality.