How to Go to Space | A Guide to Space Tourism
Always wanted to go to space? You're in luck. Space travel is quickly becoming more accessible than ever, with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin among those offering civilians the chance to buy a ticket to space.
Whether on a commercial space flight, as a trained astronaut, or after your passing, there are a variety of ways that you can go to space. We're exploring some of the ways you can experience space travel - with one of them costing less than the average UK holidaymaker’s budget!
1. Be a Billionaire
In the domain of space travel, it certainly helps if you're a billionaire - or at least a multi-millionaire. According to an article from Forbes, ticket prices can be over $55 million, depending on the nature of the flight. But let's say you have the money, and you really want to go - here are some of your options:
Space tourism refers to private recreational space flights. While the phrase 'space tourism' may have you picturing yourself lounging by a pool with an astronaut's helmet on, this isn't quite right (at least for the time being). There are actually three types of space tourism: orbital, suborbital, and lunar.
Lunar tourism, as you may have guessed, refers to private space trips which orbit or land on the moon. You'll have to wait to do this, though - there are no tickets available to the public as of yet. If you're not fussed about the moon, there is one form of space tourism you can already sign up for - suborbital space tourism.
Suborbital Space Tourism
Ready to sign up? Sounds great! If you have a spare $450,000, that is. Virgin Galactic began offering reservations for future flights in February of last year for just under half a million dollars. It's important to understand what 'suborbital flight' means, though - these trips may cross the boundary of space, but they don't travel fast enough to stay there. Virgin Galactic's first crewed flight only experienced 4 minutes of weightlessness, and it was actually debated whether or not this flight reached space.
If you're looking for a slightly more budget-friendly option, look no further. World View is currently accepting deposits for their 6-8 hour space flights, taking off from destinations all over the globe. Tickets are currently priced at $50,000 each, with a $500 deposit. This is much more affordable than a Virgin Galactic flight, and World View aims to start launching in 2024.
As World View flights are suborbital, their crafts only enter the first region of space, known as Near Space. Their craft are still considered a spacecraft by the Federal Aviation Administration due to the high altitudes they reach. And hey - although you won’t experience the zero-gravity effect often associated with space travel, you will witness similar views to those who have travelled to the International Space Station and other manned orbital vessels. Expect to see the Earth's curvature with the blackness of space around you - and for an affordable $50,000, this is certainly an option you should consider if you want to schedule in a trip soon.
A suborbital journey might differ from your imagined image of a space flight. While these trips do cross the boundary of space, they don't travel at fast enough speeds to stay there. If you have a longer trip in mind, orbital space travel may be the way to go.
Orbital Space Tourism
While tickets or reservations aren't widely available yet, public access to orbital space trips is getting closer every day. Keep an eye on SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin for all your orbital space travel needs. While travelling on an orbital space flight will inevitably come with a hefty price tag, the trips could last days - so if you have the money, you could soon be considering space for your next holiday destination.
Buy a ticket to stay on the International Space Station
If you're looking to one-up the standard space tourist, look no further. A ticket aboard the Axiom Mission 1, which included a stay at the ISS, reportedly cost $55 million. This is another option for those looking for an out-of-this-world experience - if you have a few million to spare.
2. Experience Space on the Vomit Comet
For those of you willing to compromise on an actual space experience, zero gravity could be an option that suits you and your pocket. While its nickname may not sound appealing, the vomit comet is merely a reduced-gravity aircraft used in NASA training programmes. These crafts do not actually go to space, but instead simulate the weightlessness of a space flight's zero gravity environment, so you can experience the sensation of real space travel for a fraction of the price of a Virgin Galactic flight.
The best part is that these aren't just for astronauts in training, and you can have a go for as little as £4000. These are much more affordable options compared to actual space flights, if not actually going to space isn't a deal breaker for you. But before you go, be warned - NASA's reduced-gravity aircraft was nicknamed the vomit comet for a reason, so it's maybe best avoided if you get travel sick.
3. Scatter your ashes in space
You could consider a slightly different approach - travelling to space after you have passed away. How? Have your ashes scattered in space.
UK company Aura Flights specialises in scattering ashes in space, taking you or your loved ones on a breathtaking final journey. While this option may not necessarily let you experience space in the way you have in mind, it is certainly an exciting way to have your ashes scattered, and unlike most of the previous options, it would allow you to not only see space but actually be in space. Your ashes would travel around the globe for three to six months before arriving back on Earth as snowflakes -so your loved ones can rest assured that you'll be with them wherever they go.
So, yes, this option doesn't involve going to space in the way you might be imagining, but it is a beautiful and unique way to be remembered after you're gone - and, unlike every option we've covered so far, it's more affordable than you'd think, as it's cheaper than the average traditional funeral service. If you're interested in a memorial flight for yourself or for a loved one you can find out more on the Aura Flights website.
4. Start your own space agency
If you're really sold on going to space but don't want to pay the likes of Richard Branson and Elon Musk to take you there, you could start your own space agency and take yourself into space instead of paying someone else to do it for you. Of course, this involves some knowledge of how you get yourself to space in the first place.
If you’re serious about starting a space agency it’s going to require careful planning, a dedicated team, and significant investment. You’ll need to identify and acquire experts in various fields and secure funding to invest in infrastructure such as spacecraft, launch vehicles, and ground support systems. Building partnerships with other space agencies, research institutions, and private companies is also essential.
Regulatory compliance and adherence to international treaties and agreements are crucial in the space industry, so you must ensure that your team is knowledgeable in these areas and that your plan includes measures for regulatory compliance. If you have the resources to follow these steps - and a bit of luck - you should be on track to running a space agency capable of sending yourself and others into the great unknown.
At Sent Into Space, we've completed more than a thousand space launches - but we don’t take people to space (yet!). Instead, we specialise in unmanned spaceflight for both creative and scientific purposes. We provide a variety of space launch services from advertising and marketing services to environmental validation and satellite component testing.
4. Join the Space Force
The United States Space Force (USSF) is the space branch of the US Armed Forces. If you happen to be a US citizen looking to join the military and have a specific interest in space, the USSF might be a good fit for you. However, if it's going to space you're after, this may not be the easiest option - the force isn't planning on sending troops to space any time soon, and any member of the Space Force who wants to go to space has to do so by winning a spot in NASA's astronaut corps - which leads us to our next point.
5. Go to space as a trained astronaut
So you're not a multi-millionaire, billionaire, or engineer; a reduced-gravity aircraft isn't exciting enough for you; and even if you can join the US Space Force, you won’t be going to space anytime soon. But you still want to go - so how? At this point, you should probably just train to be an astronaut. Unfortunately, it isn't necessarily as simple as it sounds. According to the National Careers Service, anyone aged 27-37 can apply for astronaut training with either the European Astronaut Corps or NASA, depending on your citizenship - but there are several steps you need to take to qualify:
While not an essential part of the application criteria, it helps your chances if you're a trained pilot. Ideally, you'll be one with experience flying a high-performance aircraft - 1,000 hours of experience, to be specific. That amounts to over 41 days of flying, which is almost 6 weeks. You'd better get going!
Get a degree, or two
To apply, you need to have an undergraduate and master's degree in a relevant subject, such as engineering, physics, mathematics, or medicine. Yes, this takes time (and money), but it will at least prepare you for the terrestrial activities you'll spend most of your time doing as an astronaut - such as writing reports, training, and attending meetings.
A NASA astronaut's advice
NASA astronaut Anne McClain wrote an article for NASA about her experience and advice in getting selected to become an astronaut. She states that those most apt for the job are adaptable, trustworthy, tenacious, and detail-oriented - qualities which most job applications would ask for. This sounds easy enough, but make sure you're aware of the reality of the job: Claire says that most astronauts only go to space once every 5-7 years! But when you do go, it may be for a while - Claire was stationed on the ISS for over six months. The job certainly requires a level of commitment, so maybe talk this one through with your partner, children or parents if you're interested.
Now, I know you've been waiting for it, so here's the catch, straight from the horse's mouth: the reality is that even if you meet all the criteria, it's hard to get picked to be an astronaut. In 2013, just eight of more than six-thousand applicants were chosen; in 2017, a class of eleven graduated - of over eighteen-thousand applicants. In light of this, here's Claire's most important piece of advice: 'Don’t do things so you can put them on a resume, do things because you have a passion for them ... If you do all these things just to be selected then are not selected, it can be very disappointing. But if you do what you love, you will not only perform better, but you will be happier too.'
Basically, you can't really just decide to be an astronaut. It takes a lot of time and effort to even be eligible to apply, and then if you're lucky enough to be one of the few chosen applicants, you have to complete the two-year training programme before you can even think about actually going to space. But if you really want to go to space, and can't afford a ticket, it's probably your best option - plus, you'd actually get paid for this one!
With that, we've reached the end of our list. Now you hopefully have a better idea of how you can go to space, and maybe you even know which of these options you'll try first!
In all seriousness, going to space is an incredible feat which, until fairly recently, seemed impossible other than in science fiction. The fact that commercial space flights are even a possibility, even if only for the super-rich, is (as they say) a giant leap for mankind. Even though it may cost a lot of money now, hopefully the day when space travel is a little more affordable isn't too far off. Until then, we'll keep focusing on unmanned space flights at Sent Into Space - if you're interested in a space launch for marketing or scientific purposes, don't hesitate to get in touch.