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Big business with space tourism

After returning, everyone is enthusiastic.

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Big business with space tourism

After returning, everyone is enthusiastic. Some even struggle for words to describe their experience. Terms like “unique”, “impressive”, “limitless” are usually used. What is meant is the view from the window of a capsule - on the earth and as a contrast in the depths of the dark cosmos space.

It is the so-called "overview effect" that the author Frank White described decades ago in his book of the same name. Traveling into space gives you an instinctive sense of the fragility of the blue planet Earth. The result is a "shift in worldview and identity."

That sounds huge. In terms of impressions, a flight into space is probably the ultimate experience, be it for professional astronauts or space tourists. The first people in space, such as Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space, already had the “overview effect”. In the early days of space travel, however, the ability to squeeze into tight capsules with diapers in one's pants was also required. In the meantime, comfort is moving into the industry.

With the privatization of the construction of manned rockets and space capsules, the US space agency Nasa has also opened the door to the future market of space tourism. A flight into space is still a risk and requires preparation. But now it's no longer about squeezing space travelers into a tight capsule, but also about moments of well-being for space vacationers. That extends to the luxury all-inclusive package including a new view of yourself and the world.

A huge market is emerging, and the industry agrees on that. However, the forecasts vary as to how many millions will come from people who want to experience a unique view in weightlessness. Analysts from Grand View Research (San Francisco) estimate the global space tourism market at almost 600 million dollars last year. Average annual growth of 40 percent is expected by 2030.

What already exists today: short trips into space that guarantee weightlessness for a few minutes. So-called suborbital flights, just over the edge of space. There is also the private stay of several days on the International Space Station ISS. In the future, flights around the moon and one day landings on the Earth's satellite will also be on the agenda. Above all, there is a shift in the duration of the journey. To put it simply, the trend is moving away from short trips to the most comfortable possible stays of several days in specially designed hotel modules in space.

The hotel modules will initially be coupled to the International Space Station ISS - practically as guest rooms for private visitors. After the end of the ISS, which is expected in 2031, the private modules could be detached again and serve as the cornerstone for a new, then commercial space station for scientists and space tourists. According to the industry, the United States would never move away from a permanent presence in space with humans.

Space tourists still have to have a lot of money for the experience of weightlessness and a unique view - or they have to be invited. Most travel providers are backed by billionaires. So far it is still an industry of the rich for the rich.

Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos, for example, offers short trips lasting around ten minutes with his space company Blue Origin and the rocket capsule New Shepard. A seat on the inaugural flight was auctioned off in June 2021 for a whopping $28 million. The tickets are said to cost around $1 million. However, an unknown flight of the rocket failed in September. Before new manned flights can take place, it must first be clarified how the incident could have happened.

"NATO has a very good picture of the air situation on the Polish-Ukrainian border," reports military expert Guido Schmidtke. Awacs reconnaissance aircraft should therefore permanently monitor the airspace in the border area.

Source: WORLD / Guido Schmidtke

72-year-old British billionaire Sir Richard Branson and his company Virgin Galatic are also offering a few minutes of weightlessness. However, its unique vehicle, which takes off under the wings of an airplane, has never flown since its maiden flight in July 2011 due to technical problems. The ticket price is said to be $450,000.

The most successful provider in the space tourism business is the idiosyncratic technology entrepreneur Elon Musk. The 51-year-old not only founded the space company SpaceX and is at the helm of Tesla. He also recently made headlines with the purchase of the short message service Twitter.

Musk made the first private multi-day space flights in a relatively comfortable capsule (Crew Dragon): In September 2021, billionaire Jared Isaacman chartered such a capsule and orbited the earth for three days with three other people on the Inspiration 4 mission. Musk had an extra-large window built into the top of the capsule for a 360-degree view of Earth.

In the future, however, comfort in weightlessness will not just be limited to large windows, tailor-made space suits including individual helmets from the 3D printer and spacious capsules. On its website, SpaceX is already promising seven-day moon flights for up to twelve people with a private compartment.

Several relatively young companies are sensing their chance for the ultimate travel experience with the commercialization of space. For example, SpaceX works with the US companies Axiom Space and Space Adventures, which fly private individuals to the ISS. In April there was a five-day mission (AX-1) with four tourists and a commander with a Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS.

The price per seat was said to be $55 million. In December 2021, the Japanese billionaire and entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa flew with a companion in a Russian Soyuz capsule to the ISS for twelve days, mediated by the US company Space Adventure. The Japanese's next plan: Orbit the moon with SpaceX.

So the space tourism business is picking up steam. Nasa has chosen Axiom to dock commercial modules to the ISS. Axiom speaks boldly of the first private space station in space. The first module is scheduled to dock at the end of 2025. An "egg-shaped structure" is planned inside, which symbolizes "nest-like comfort" with an unobstructed view of the earth. It sounds like something out of a special kind of luxury travel advertising brochure.

The missions in zero gravity should therefore be designed as pleasantly as possible. There may even be champagne in orbit in the future. At least the French premium champagne house Maison Mumm recently announced that with Axiom Space a special bottle and a special blend of grape varieties for a space champagne (Mumm Cordon Rouge Stellar) was found. For safety reasons, the glass bottle comes in an aluminum jacket and has a stainless steel cap.

The Hilton hotel group also wants to offer amenities on earth in weightlessness. The hotel giant announced a cooperation with Voyager Space for a space hotel. The US space company does not want to connect modules to the ISS, but is planning the first free-flying, permanently manned commercial space station (Starlab) for four people.

It is scheduled to orbit the earth from 2027. Without giving details, it is generally said that the collaboration between the space and hotel experts should range from architecture and design to joint advertising. A joint concept for suites and sleeping accommodations is planned. There the space tourists can then dream and process their experiences.

"Everything on shares" is the daily stock exchange shot from the WELT business editorial team. Every morning from 7 a.m. with our financial journalists. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Amazon Music and Deezer. Or directly via RSS feed.

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