Even at a price of over $15 million dollars
(US) per ticket, a burgeoning new space tourism industry is emerging,
according to the Space Frontier Foundation. Mark Shuttleworth of
South Africa recently became the second civilian to buy a ticket for a
flight to the International Space Station, and follows on the successful
flight of private citizen Dennis Tito who, last year, became the first.
Foundation President Rick Tumlinson, acting privately, initially signed
Tito up for his flight last year, and, acknowledges that there are more
ticket buyers waiting in the wings.

“Even at these Îastronomicalâ prices,” said Tumlinson, “we have an
American Îsoccer mom,â a businessman from Poland, and even a rock star
pulling funds together for their tickets.” He is certain that, over
time, the high cost of spaceflight will come down, as market forces kick
in and new passenger-carrying space ships come on line.

“At the beginning of the aviation industry,” Tumlinson explained, “only
the very rich could afford to fly across the oceans, but eventually the
cost began to fall as systems were created to streamline the process.
This allowed more people to fly, which brought the cost even lower. Now
almost anyone can buy a plane ticket to anywhere. It will take longer
for this to happen in space, but it will happen.”

The Foundation, which supports tax and market incentives to help
kick-start the nascent space transportation industry, wants government
and Wall Street to take notice and act now to support commercial human
space activities.

“This should be a wake up call to potential investors in companies
wanting to cater to this market,” believes Tumlinson. “Imagine — if
the costs could be brought down, this market could be worth billions.”

The Foundation is happy that NASA and the other space agencies operating
the ISS have now created standards and systems for clearing and training
what it calls “citizen explorers.” The group believes the next big
hurdles are commercial spaceships that operate like airliners and the
development of dedicated space hotels.

Added Tumlinson, “right now, the government can only do so much in this
area. There are credible private teams out there who want to build the
space versions of DC-3s and space Hiltons, but they are dying on the
vine due to lack of investment.” According to the Foundation, it is
time for those of vision to step up and help open this new frontier to
the people of Earth, by bringing the costs down. “After all,” he
concluded, “the ÎRight Stuffâ isnât limited to government employees,
their guests and an occasional multi-millionaire. Why shouldnât we all
get to experience the ride of a lifetime?”