Space travel is not a thing of the future anymore. We are getting closer and closer to private companies developing space crafts to take the average person into space on a mini vacation. There are multiple companies involved in this space race to be able to take people out to see the inky blackness of space, followed by the curvature of the Earth.
Virgin Galactic - The first company that comes to mind is Virgin Galactic. Founded by Sir Richard Branson, this company is seen as one of the front-runners in the space tourism market. With his ship, SpaceShipOne that is released from the mother ship, White Knight One, he will carry 6 passengers and two pilots up to the Karman Line (100 km or 62 miles) where "space" officially begins. Passengers will be paying $200,000 for the flight, which will last 2.5 hours. Once they reach space, they will be able to release themselves from their seat and float around for 5-6 minutes before they have to reharness and fly back to Earth. Included with the flight price will be a 3-day training program putting you through testing to make sure that you will be mentally and physically capable of entering space. Flights are predicted to start sometime in late 2013 or early 2014 and will happen once a week.Credit: XCOR Aerospace
XCOR - The next company that is a major player in the space tourism field is XCOR Aerospace. They have designed a craft that will take 1 participant and 1 pilot up at a time. Their craft, the Lynx Mark I will reach a maximum of 200,000 feet or roughly 37 miles high. XCOR's approach is unique in that since there is only one person going up with the pilot at a time, the participant will be sitting in a co-pilots seat with expansive panoramic views. The price for this flight is $95,000 and will be a 1-hour round trip. The price includes a 5-day qualification program where participants will experience an altitude chamber, acrobatic flight, medical examinations all while staying at a 5-star resort in Phoenix, AZ. Currently XCOR is anticipating starting test flights at the end of 2012. Once the test flight phase is over, flights will take place 4 times a day Monday through Wednesday.
Armadillo - Another company looking to take citizens into space is Armadillo Aerospace. Their craft will be the shape of a capsule and will hold two people. It will launch vertically and upon decent it will use a parachute to safely guide the craft back down. Armadillo Aerospace is still in the developmental stages and has not set a date for flights yet.
Other notable companies that are breaking into space tourism are Boeing, Blue Origin and SpaceX. These companies are developing crafts to compete with the other major players.
With people traveling all over the world, it was only a matter of time before we could reach space. It looks like with some of the companies listed above that space tourism is real and it will be here to stay for many years to come.