2019 The Year of Space Tourism
This year we are expecting several private companies in the US to start taking humans to space, most for the first time. And, if all goes to plan, this could be a vital step towards making space more accessible – where paid trips and privately funded astronauts become the norm. “2019 does feel like the year that’s going to be the culmination of two decades of development work that have gone into space tourism,” says industry analyst Caleb Williams from consulting firm SpaceWorks. “And if we’re lucky, we’ll see the birth of an entirely new industry.”
One of those companies is Virgin Galactic, who on 13 December 2018 conducted their first trip to near-space. Two pilots, Mark Stucky and Frederick Sturckow, took Virgin’s spaceplane VSS Unity to an altitude of 82.7 kilometres (51.4 miles). This year, the company plans to conduct more test flights, with the possibility of taking its first passengers – CEO Richard Branson being first of all – to space.
Also this year, we are expecting to see two private US companies – SpaceX and Boeing – begin launching astronauts to orbit. Both are contracted by NASA to take astronauts to the ISS, but the companies also plan to fly their own astronauts, a key step towards making space more accessible and opening up new doors for tourist flights. SpaceX has already begun talking about paid trips to the Moon as early as 2023.
By Jonathan O’Callaghan, WIRED