At one time it would have been impossible to think of ordinary people buying tickets to travel to space and back. But today it is happening and it is called space tourism. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie, ‘Total Recall’ had space tourism as a central theme.
Such tourism however is the privilege of the hugely wealthy for it costs a lot of money. On April 28, 2001, Dennis Tito, a California-based multi-millionaire became the first paying space tourist. He paid $20 million for the trip! Tito travelled on a Russian Soyuz capsule launched by an American company called Space Adventures Ltd.
He spent 7 days aboard the International Space Station. In 2002, Mark Shuttle worth, a South African millionaire, became the second space tourist. He too shelled out $20 million for the adventure. He spent 8 days on the ISS. Greg Olson was the third such tourist.
But he preferred not to be called a tourist as he conducted many experiments during his stay at the ISS. In 2006, Anousheh Ansari became the first female to buy a ticket for space tourism. She is an American of Iranian origin. The cost of space tourism has not deterred enthusiasts from undertaking it. In fact, there is a long waiting list of laymen who wish to sight see space.
Space tourism has been derided as a ‘playground for the rich’. But as demand grows, the cost of space travel might come down and even the middle class may soon be able to sign up for tours to outer space. Many companies are trying to make sub-orbital flights affordable to the public. In India, people like Jay Patel, a diamond trader, and Santhosh George Kulangara have signed up as space tourists.
They will be among the first space tourists from India. Santhosh George, who hails from Kerala, will take off on the Virgin Galactic flight from America sometime in 2010. The entire process of signing up took two years. The flight charges are around Rs.90-lakhs but they may be reduced later.
It seems ridiculous for people to spend so much...
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