With a handful of people having already completed successful visits to the final frontier, outer space as a viable holiday destination is looking more like a reality than science fiction. But it’s not only holiday-makers who are looking upward, NASA is keeping close tabs on, and in some cases, helping fund these start-ups because it plans to contract private companies for launches as it ended its own launch program in 2012. But for the most part, these companies are targeting the average joe with big dreams. If you find yourself with a couple million or so to spare and some out-of-this-world curiosity, these five companies can help you reach for the stars.
By Christi Hang
Only seven tourists have made it to outer space and they have all done it via Space Adventures. Only 500 people ever left earth, making Space Adventures’ seven even more impressive but the company hasn’t stopped there. It is now offering the chance for ordinary people to take a spacewalk. But this very exclusive holiday comes with a hefty price tag; a one-and-a-half-hour spacewalk will set you back US$15 million but the trip also includes a 16-day stay at the International Space Station and intensive training at Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. While the sky is definitely not the limit for Space Adventures, the company continues to think bigger. It is currently taking reservations for a future lunar mission that is slated to take place in 2015. One of the two seats has already been sold for $150 million— the company won’t name the space cadet, it said the person is very well known—and the other seat is still up for grabs if you are looking for a truly undiscovered spot for your next holiday.
For more information, visit spaceadventures.com
Entrepreneur and adventurer Richard Branson started his spacy business within his Virgin group in 2004. Since then, it has been busy preparing its craft, the SpaceShipTwo, to make the journey into outerspace. Most recently, the company announced that the SpaceShipTwo broke the sound barrier in April. Seats are going for US$200,000 and according to its website, it has nearly sold all 500 seats for the first set of flights, which might be taking off sooner than later. Although the first flights were scheduled for 2009, numerous issues have delayed take off, but Branson announced on a radio morning show earlier this month that he would be on the first Virgin Galactic voyage, slated for December 2013. Virgin Galactic already has star-backing on earth; celebrities already on the list include Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Ashton Kutcher. Earlier this month, a seat on a future Virgin Galactic flight next to Leonardo DiCaprio was auctioned off for charity and went for $1.5 million.
For more information, visit virgingalactic.com
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as SpaceX was founded by visionary Elon Musk, the man behind PayPal and Tesla Motors, and it has been collaborating with and commissioned by aeronautical heavyweights such as NASA, the US Air Force, and satellite company SES. Currently it is mostly focused on space transportation but its original and still ultimate goal is enabling people to live on other planets. It’s a bit out there but its track record so far—more than 50 launches on its manifest and more than $4 billion in contracts—is solid. Other historic firsts for SpaceX include being the first to return a spacecraft from low-orbit Earth (accomplished in 2010) and being the first nongovernment entity to dock with the International Space Station to exchange cargo payloads and return to earth (completed in 2012).
For more information, visit spacex.com
Space Expedition Corporation
Space Expedition Corporation is planning to take off in 2014 and you can be one of the first 100 people, which includes model Doutzen Kroes and DJ Armin van Buuren, for $100,000. Flights are scheduled for a maximum of four launches a day and each trip will be a personal experience as it will only include the participant and a pilot. As a preview, Space Expedition is offering a slightly cheaper program that will launch a later this year. It won’t go into space but it does hit an impressive height of more than 60 kilometers. The first launch will be a long time coming for the Space Expedition, which began building rockets in California since 1990. Since then, it has built 15 generations of rockets. Adding to its experience, Space Expedition has fired approximately 5,000 rockets on the ground and completed 67 flights on two different types of rocket airplanes.
For more information, visit spacexc.com
Established by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos in 2000, Blue Origin’s main goal is to dramatically lower the cost of space flights while increasing the safeness of the endeavors. And the super-secretive rocket organization is working hard on its mission with the help of heavy-hitter NASA , which routinely collaborates with Blue Origin. NASA awarded Blue Origin US$3.7 million in 2009 to aid in the development of technology and products for future human spaceflight operations. NASA followed up its support with a whopping $22 million in 2011 and since then has helped consult on projects. Blue Origin puts a big emphasis on safety is taking its time to ensure future flights go smoothly. It hasn’t set a price for trips yet but its last huge accomplishment looks quite promising for the future tours; Blue Origin successful test of its crew capsule escape system in 2011.
For more information, visit blueorigin.com