Space Tourism Just Got a Bit Cheaper

Posted by Mother Nature Network

If you dream of riding into space and don’t possess Sir Richard Branson’s wallet, your dream just became a little more attainable. Space.com reports that Virginia-based firm Space Adventures lowered the price tag for a brief hop into space on one of its new suborbital rocket ships. For a “mere” $102,000—half the going rate—you'll get five minutes in space and the full preparatory experience.

And just what will $102,000 buy you? Space Adventures, which just struck a deal with Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace, will let you ride a vertically launched rocket ship 62 miles up. This is roughly the area where space begins. At this point, pilots will cut the engines and allow you to experience up to five minutes of weightlessness, as well as 360-degree views of space and Earth's horizon below. But before passengers enjoy the view, they also must complete a training package in the days before launch.
 
Space Adventures and Armadillo Aerospace are not the first to get into private space travel—they are just the first to bring the price down. And $102,000 is certainly a hefty price tag for a suborbital space flight, but it is $100,000 less than Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which is also undergoing tests for flight. Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo is currently enacting captive-carry tests for future passengers.
 
Eric Anderson is president and chief executive officer of Space Adventures. As he told Space.com, "I am very pleased to announce Space Adventures' agreement with Armadillo … We envision this as a critical turning point for public access to space." Currently, Space Adventures is the only company that has booked and sent private citizens into space. Working with the Russian Federal Space Agency, they recently charged Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte about $35 million for an 11-day ride on the Russian Soyuz spaceship to the International Space Station.
 
Partner Armadillo Aerospace is also leading the private race into space. That company recently took second prize in a NASA contest to fly privately developed rockets on mock moon-landing missions. Armadillo has also developed reusable rocket-powered vehicles and engines for the X-racer aircraft. John Carmack is the president and chief technology officer of Armadillo Aerospace. As he told Space.com, "A decade of research and development has gotten us to the point where we can credibly talk about commercial passenger experiences. Everything is coming together … with Space Adventures to help us take things through to commercial operation."

Katherine Butler is a TV writer who writes for the Mother Nature Network.

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Photo courtesy of NASA via Mother Nature Network