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Monday, March 29, 2004

Selling dreams: the promise and challenge of space tourism
Two years ago the prospects for space tourism looked quite promising. By early 2002 one space tourist, Dennis Tito, had already flown to the International Space Station while a second, Mark Shuttleworth, was in the final stages of preparations for his flight. Moreover, at least two people—Lori “AstroMom” Garver and pop star Lance Bass—were vying to fly on the next Soyuz flight to the station in the fall of 2002. At the same time, there was growing interest in suborbital space tourism, with the hopes that a vehicle would soon win the X Prize and offer tourist services.
The events of the last two years, though, have been at least a little sobering to space tourism advocates. Neither Garver nor Bass flew in space because of an inability to work out sufficient sponsorship and other funding deals to pay for the trip. The Columbia accident the following February put a temporary halt to space tourist flight opportunities as the Soyuz taxi missions instead became the means for rotating crews on the ISS. On the suborbital front, several ventures have made significant progress towards winning the X Prize, with a strong possibility that one team will win this year—before the prize expires at the end of the year—but when such flights will be available to paying passengers remains uncertain. Read More


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