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So Much For Space Tourism… March 5, 2009

Posted by shubber in finance, gauntlet being dropped, Manned Space, NASA, public service announcement, smack talk, space, space tourism, suborbital tourism.
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When Dennis Tito flew to ISS, there was an outpouring of cheering from the alt.space community because the era of space tourism was finally here.  Claims were put forth about how the $10m price tag was only the start, to be followed by a decreasing price that would make space accessible to more and more of the masses over time.

Fast forward a few years, and with the flight of Anousheh, even more of an outpouring of cheering and “this changes things” was heard from the maddening alt.space masses.  This Cynic was blasted by not a few for daring to question what her flight did for the greater “space tourism” movement.  But the thickness of their heads is matched by that of my skin, so no harm done.

While it might be a good time to point out that the Cynics were right, and that the price of trips to ISS would (contrary to the economically challenged arguments of the alt.spacers) continue to rise, as evidenced by the most recent $10m hike in price to Mr. Simoniy, there is a more interesting note that has just come out of Russia.

It appears that the Russian Space Agency has decided it wants no more tourists going to ISS after 2009.  Bummer.

Then again, this could be that much-needed boost to Mr. Bigelow’s efforts to build a space hotel, now that ISS will no longer be a govt subsidized alternative.

</crickets chirping>

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Comments»

1. Jonathan Goff - March 6, 2009

Shubber,
IIRC, the Russians make announcements like this on a regular basis. I think it’s more a negotiating ploy to milk more money out of potential customers than anything else.

That said, with orbital space tourism depending entirely on a single government-run supplier, with no real competition yet, I don’t really expect to see much happen very soon. If Bigelow and/or SpaceX get their act together things could change. But with the way the market is going right now, I’m not holding my breath for breakthroughs in orbital tourism anytime soon. I think that orbital tourism does have the potential for becoming a thriving market eventually, but we’re a long way from having the groundwork laid for that to become a reality.

~Jon

2. Thomas Olson - March 6, 2009

Another interesting thing to note: While Simonyi says supportive words about space tourism’s future, he himself won’t invest in it. He’ll pony up an extra $10 mill to have a second flight, but won’t put up similar capital (or any at all) in support of alt.space startups. What has he figured out that the alt.spacers haven’t (or won’t admit to)?

3. CharlesInHouston - March 6, 2009

Funny story here. I was fortunate enough to (briefly) talk to John Denver when he came to the Johnson Space Center while he was planning to pay the Russians an OUTRAGEOUS sum to fly to Mir on Soyuz. He was in Bldg 29 (was that in 1985?) being measured or something and several of us got to talk to him for a minute – by the way he was wearing only running shorts. He appeared to be in good shape for a guy that only ate organic muslix! Later I saw him and a cast of thousands at Frenchie’s and we found out that he did NOT only eat organic muslix.
Anyway – do you recall how much he was gonna pay the Russians? People said it was an enormous and unreasonable amout though he said that it was well worth it (we did not discuss a dollar figure).

John was gonna pay them one million dollars. Today – that would seen as a tremendous bargain!

4. Nader - March 11, 2009

As I recall, the reason given for the change in policy was the fuller manning of the ISS. As a practical matter, this eliminates room for tourists on it, as well as makes fuller use of Russia’s manned space launch capacity (especially with the U.S. space shuttle to discontinue flight soon).

In other words, as observed here, Russian space tourism depended primarily on underutilized, already existing capacity in publicly funded space projects-just as with the very low price of Russian space launch in general (though of course, PPP ratios factor into that too)-that others active in the field simply cannot count on.

5. Glyn - March 26, 2009

I am still hopeful that I will be able to take a sub-orbital shot in my lifetime. However, I was once advised by Joe Engle (X-15, shuttle pilot) that you shouldn’t do it if it impacts your standard of living.

Before I get cynic’ed down, let me quantify the reason why I am *hopeful*. It basically boils down to the fact that there are several companies working on it out there with sufficient funding and a solid level of aero/astronautical engineering expertise, and (most importantly) who have actually built and flown real hardware.

Another important reason is that physics doesn’t throw up as many walls with sub-orbital flight. As shown by SS1, the required Delta V and re-entry heating involved with a sub-orbital shot aren’t nearly as horrendous as for orbital flight.

So yeah, sub-orbital space tourism within my lifetime, almost certainally. *Affordable* sub-orbital space tourism – touch and go.

Affordable Orbital space tourism??? Here, drink this…..

6. Alexander - October 14, 2009

I think its a great idea. This is a good news the Russian Space Agency has decided it wants no more tourists going to ISS after 2009. There are reasons that NASA pick the best and the brightest. Its because going into outer space isn’t exactly the safest vacation spot. thank you for shearing your post.


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