Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk
Virgin Galactic is a company within Virgin Group; a company founded by Richard Branson. Branson is hoping to launch his first commercial flight into outer space by the end of 2013. On this journey to space from earth, customers will be able to go more than 100km above the Earth's surface. This will allow passengers to view the curve of the Earth for 7 minutes before descending back to earth.
The fantasy to experience life beyond the earths' atmosphere was always limited to astronauts or the realm of television. For Star Trek fans, I am sure this is a dream come true. Among those who have already booked their journeys are Branson himself, his son, daughter, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pit, Ashton Kutcher, Princess Beatrice and Paris Hilton. Not surprising that only the wealthy few are venturing on this trip.
But is the cost and risk worth it? Space tourism is a fresh, new market and as expected the flights will be costly. Virgin Galactic has priced the journey at £125,000. This is quite hefty and unaffordable for most people, but for those who can afford it, is it worth the risk? Critiques of space tourism have mentioned the growing concerns for the risk that passengers are taking. Some even say that this should be considered a dangerous sport.
There is no doubt that there is an unbalanced distribution of wealth around the world. It is unfair that only wealthy people can afford space tourism. But I'm not going to lecture the wealthy, telling them that there are much more useful things to spend their money on.
Is the idea of space tourism is ridiculous? Yes! But do I think we should put an end to it or convince those who are a part of it to do better with their money? No. As much as I am skeptical about space tourism and have many concerns such as environmental and individual risk factors, I don't think it's fair to limit innovators. Encouraging 'crazy' innovators has given humanity the luxury to fly across oceans.
The fact is, commercial airlines started the same way. Only celebrities and billionaires could afford flying airplanes. There is no doubt that this is a break through and it seems that a new industry is emerging. Space tourism will undoubtedly become cheaper. Personally, going beyond the earth's atmosphere has never been a dream of mine. Every time I think of space I can't help but remember the dreadful movie Armageddon. But if your dream has always been to go into outer space and you can afford the offering price, then by all means go for it!