Space tourism is fast becoming the new frontier in the transportation business. Driven by profit-making private venture capital, the push to offer customers some direct or indirect experience with space travel is no longer the stuff of comic books or science fiction. The worry is that the legal architecture for this nascent industry has barely got its foundations in order.
There seems to be a sound business case for the industry. Market studies indicate that there are more than one thousand sub-orbital passengers per year and this is capable of generating global market figures topping $1 billion by the end of this decade.
Virgin Galactic has signed up more than 200 prospective space tourists out of a potential pool of 30,000. Spaceships such as XCOR’s suborbital vehicle designed specifically for space tourist flights have been built. The Ansari X-Prize continues to spur competition for new flight modes, and hundreds of tickets have been sold at around $100,000 apiece.
Supporting infrastructure for space tourism has already been installed in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin and Florida. The United Kingdom has recently also unveiled eight potential space ports. The UK has invested $90 million into development of a revolutionary, hybrid UK spacecraft Skylon.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Singapore have forwarded plans to establish spaceports. Nigeria, meanwhile, seeks to put a person in space.
Picture: NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons