After early successes in space, much of the public saw intensive space exploration as inevitable. Those aspirations are memorialized in science fiction including Arthur C. Clarke's A Fall of Moon dust and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Joanna Russ's 1968 novel Picnic on Paradise, and Larry Niven's Known Space stories. Lucian in the 2nd century AD in his book True History examines the idea of a crew of men whose ship travels to the Moon during a storm. Jules Verne also took up the theme of lunar visits in his books, From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. Robert A. Heinlein’s short story The Menace from Earth, published in 1957, was one of the first to incorporate elements of a developed space tourism industry within its framework. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was common belief that space hotels would be launched by 2000. Many futurologists around the middle of the 20th century speculated that the average family of the early 21st century would be able to enjoy a holiday on the Moon. In the 1960s, Pan Am established a waiting list for future flights to the Moon, issuing free "First Moon Flights Club" membership cards to those who requested them.
Orbital Space Tourists:
At the end of the 1990s, MirCorp, a private venture that was by then in charge of the space station, began seeking potential space tourists to visit Mir. Dennis Tito, an American businessman and former JPL scientist, became their first candidate. When the decision to de-orbit Mir was made, Tito managed to switch his trip to the International Space Station (ISS) through a deal between MirCorp and U.S.-based Space Adventures, Ltd., despite strong opposition from senior figures at NASA; from the beginning of the ISS expeditions, NASA stated it wasn't interested in space guests. Nonetheless, Dennis Tito visited the ISS on April 28, 2001, and stayed for seven days, becoming the first "fee-paying" space tourist.
He was followed in 2002 by South African computer millionaire Mark Shuttleworth. The third was Gregory Olsen in 2005, who was trained as a scientist and whose company produced specialist high-sensitivity cameras. Olsen planned to use his time on the ISS to conduct a number of experiments, in part to test his company's products. Olsen had planned an earlier flight, but had to cancel for health reasons.
On September 18, 2006, an Iranian American named Anousheh Ansari became the fourth space tourist (Soyuz TMA-9). On April 7, 2007, Charles Simonyi, an American businessman of Hungarian descent, joined their ranks (Soyuz TMA-10). Simonyi became the first repeat space tourist, paying again to fly on Soyuz TMA-14 in March–April 2009. Canadian Guy Laliberte became the next space tourist in September, 2009 aboard Soyuz TMA-16.
Suborbital Flights Projects:
- On October 4, 2004, SpaceShipOne, designed by Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites, won the $10,000,000 X Prize, which was designed to be won by the first private company who could reach and surpass an altitude of 62 miles (100 km) twice within two weeks. The altitude is beyond the Karman Line, the arbitrarily defined boundary of space. The first flight was flown by Michael Melvill on June 21, 2004, to a height of 62 miles, making him the first commercial astronaut. The prize-winning flight was flown by Brian Binnie, which reached a height of 69.6 miles, breaking the X-15 record.
- Virgin Galactic, is planning to begin passenger service aboard the VSS Enterprise, a Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo class spacecraft. The initial seat price is $200,000, with a required down-payment of $20,000. To date, over 600 people have signed up. Headed by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, Virgin Galactic hopes to be the first private space tourism company to regularly send civilians into space. A citizen astronaut will only require three days of training before spaceflight. SpaceShipTwo is a scaled up version of SpaceShipOne, the spacecraft which claimed the Ansari X Prize. Launches will initially occur at the Mojave Spaceport in California, and will then be moved to Spaceport America in Upham, New Mexico. Tourists will also be flown from Spaceport Sweden, in Kiruna.
- XCOR Aerospace is developing a suborbital vehicle called Lynx. The Lynx will take off from a runway under rocket power. Unlike SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo, Lynx will not require a mothership. Lynx is designed for rapid turnaround, which will enable it to fly up to four times per day. Because of this rapid flight rate, Lynx has fewer seats than SpaceShipTwo, carrying only one pilot and one spaceflight participant on each flight. XCOR expected to roll out the first Lynx prototype and begin flight tests in 2013. If all goes well, it is hoped that Lynx will carry paying customers before the end of 2014.
- Citizens in Space, formerly the Teacher in Space Project, is a project of the United States Rocket Academy. Citizens in Space combines citizen science with citizen space exploration. The goal is to fly citizen-science experiments and citizen explorers (who travel free) who will act as payload operators on suborbital space missions. By 2012, Citizens in Space had acquired a contract for 10 suborbital flights with XCOR Aerospace and expected to acquire additional flights from XCOR and other suborbital spaceflight providers in the future. In 2012 Citizens in Space reported they had begun training three citizen astronaut candidates and would select seven additional candidates over the next 12 to 14 months.
- Space Expedition Corporation was preparing to use the Lynx for "Space Expedition Curacao", a commercial flight from Hato Airport on Curacao, and planned to start commercial flights in 2014. The costs were $95,000 each.
- Armadillo Aerospace is developing a two-seat vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) rocket called Hyperion, which will be marketed by Space Adventures. Hyperion uses a capsule similar in shape to the Gemini capsule. The vehicle will use a parachute for descent but will probably use retrorockets for final touchdown, according to remarks made by Armadillo Aerospace at the Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in February 2012.
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