In a recent blog, I told you about the contest for a free ride into suborbital space sponsored by Microsoft Corp. and chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Inc. Ticket prices for such adventures run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and even the millions.
DreamSpace’s XF-1 is a one-person spaceship that will take off like a
plane and soar into suborbital space using a liquid-fuel rocket engine.
The prototype XF-1 could be ready for flight by the end of 2007 and
will be launched initially from a high-altitude balloon. DreamSpace
Now, economy-class space travel has hit the emerging and ever more super-hyped industry of space tourism. Entrepreneur Brian Feeny says his company, DreamSpace, will charge a mere $10,000 to $39,000 to take you into the great beyond. That's an order of magnitude less than the price of a ticket on Virgin Galactic spacelines. And it's not so far from the cost of trans-Atlantic flight in the earliest days of aviation, if you adjust for inflation.
Feeny's daring announcement reflects the roaring enthusiasm for space tourism. Companies and entire governments are staking claims in the new industry as it is born. If it takes off (literally), space tourism could create entirely new wealth in the economy — that is, a small number of rich people and a larger number of new employees.
Could. Would. Should. Might. Space tourism is stuck, for the moment, in the subjunctive case. But who are we to be cynical? If I had to choose between buying a new car, putting a down payment on a house, or rocketing into space, it might not be such an easy choice.
I just have a few personal concerns about economy-class spaceflight. One, will they build in extra legroom as a standard, or do I have to pay more? Two, will there be in-flight films, snacks, and drinks? Third, if I'm not at the gate within 15 minutes of lift-off, can I get bumped from my flight?
And let's not forget frequent-flyer miles. The thing is, with round-trip flights measured only in the low-hundreds of miles, it might take an awful long time to win enough points for a complimentary ticket to space.