Throughout history mankind has been fascinated with space and the stars and planets. From the early astronomers of the ancient world in Egypt and Greece to the space race of the 20th century, there has been an obsession with the night skies and what they contain.
The need to travel and explore has shaped human history, and educational websites like planets.org.uk are a testament to the changing desire to explore space. Exploration has led to the formation of the modern world as people journeyed across the world, colonised new lands and created empires. Undoubtedly, the next step is to voyage beyond the confines of Earth and into space. But will space travel ever become commonplace? When will we be able to get on a spaceship and go on holiday to the moon?
In the mid 20th century, many optimistic futurologists predicted that the average family would be jetting off to space for a holiday by the year 2000. While space holidays remain far from the norm, since 2001 there have been seven space tourists, of various nationalities, all travelling with the company ‘Space Adventures’ on journeys averaging 11 days. However, these trips into space cost each person an average of twenty million dollars and involved lengthy periods of training.
Now, however, several companies are offering trips into space that will – although still expensive – be available to many more people. The average space adventurer in future can expect several days’ training at a space centre followed by an adrenaline-charged take-off from Earth. Once in low-earth orbit they will have stunning views of the planet and will be able to perhaps perform a few zero-gravity somersaults (dubbed ‘astrobatics’). There will then be a relatively gentle ‘glide’ home. The whole trip will take about two and a half hours. This is significantly shorter than the average ‘holiday’ but it will certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
To date, 410 people have booked a trip into space with Virgin Galactic. With flights from Canada, New Mexico and Sweden and with plans for hotels aboard space shuttles in development, it seems likely that space travel will certainly become available, at least to the wealthy, within this generation. Whether it ever becomes accessible to all – and indeed whether it ever should be – remains to be seen. Given the pattern of human history, however and people’s unquenchable thirst to explore the unknown, it seems probable that at some point in the future mass space tourism will become a reality.
This article was Authored by Jack Rasmussen, keen astronomer and self-confessed nerd.