Could your next vacation destination be in space?


he pinnacle of luxury is 65 miles above you. For four minutes there last month, a group of six lucky space tourists – including a former party supply mogul, a college professor, a real estate developer and his wife – floated happily on Jeff’s New Shepard capsule. Bezos, a spunky, professional hunk of metal variously described as “a gumdrop-shaped capsule” and a “rocket dong.” It was the 20th successful launch of the Amazon founder’s $1 billion-a-year Blue Origin project since last July, the first not to boast a famous crew member – star Pete Davidson. from Saturday Night Live arguing with Kanye West while dating his ex, Kim Kardashian, dropped out due to a scheduling conflict.

A new space race is accelerating. This time it’s not about superpowers seeking supremacy, but about private companies carrying wide-eyed mugs into Earth’s orbit. Last July, Richard Branson’s big and shiny Virgin Galactic space rocket traveled 53.4 miles to the edge of space; Musk’s balletic Falcon rockets are reusable and reliable, launching heavy payloads — and people — above the atmosphere 31 times last year like a smooth sci-fi trampoline.

“2021 has been the most exciting year for American space since 1969, when the United States put a man on the Moon,” says Roman Chiporukha, CEO of SpaceVIP, a “one-stop-shop” travel agency for the spatial experiences exhibited by money bag customers. demands that their out-of-this-world solution be satisfied. A travel agent, but for space. Fancy a six-hour suborbital trip? A £96,000 fee for a jolly with Space Perspective, a private company that is willing to attach airtight capsules to space balloons. For around £190,000 I can get a seat on one of Branson’s Virgin Galactic flights. And for £42m I’ll land a place on the International Space Station with Axiom Space, a company that trains private astronauts for space proper.

I, like you, don’t have £42m. Can losers like us dream of going to space? “I see this as the advent of air travel,” says Chiporukha. “A hundred years ago, when people started taking commercial flights, it was extremely expensive. Then more people got interested and the prices went down. Okay, but I don’t have 100 on me either. “Remember when a flat screen TV was $15,000?” he says. ‘Now you can get one for $400. So it’s just a matter of people’s interest and lower prices. I don’t think it will happen in the next five years, but definitely in the next 10-15 as people start to take more interest in it.

How many customers has he slipped on a spaceship so far? ‘Nothing.’ This, after all, is rocket science. Reaching Earth orbit is always exorbitant and tricky. Astronauts must be trained for the rigors of space, and this journey takes deep pockets. In the 1990s, as Amazon took off, Bezos’ ex-girlfriend told reporters that “the reason he makes so much money is to go to space.” A friend later claimed that Bezos had started to put on weight ‘in anticipation of the day when he too would journey to the heavens’

The luxurious windows with golden ceilings are all the more beautiful to frame the views of the Earth below

So, I kindly asked Axiom Space if I could take a free lift with their paying crew of star travelers. On April 8, the Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) lifted off in one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Dragon 1 capsules, with the first private astronauts to ever set foot on a space station. It is a 10 day trip. “I’m going headlong into this mission,” says Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive vice president of government operations and strategic communications at Axiom, and founder of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration — space code for “brb, am busy “. “I must say, however, that our crew are not tourists. There’s a role for that, but that’s not what Axiom does. Our team has trained between 700 and 1,000 hours… This is the first wave of non-governmental astronauts that paves the way for private astronauts of all persuasions destined not only for the ISS but also for commercial space stations.

I just want to have a good vacation, Mary Lynne. But Axiom Station, a space palace that will eventually be attached to the ISS and replace it when it’s retired in 2024, is meant to be a place for recreation as well as research. The interiors – all luxurious gold-capped windows with rounded corners to better frame the views of the Earth below – were designed by Philippe Starck, the famous French designer who once told me that all mankind was its hero, “from the bacteria four billion years ago, to the fish, to the frog, to the monkey, to the super apes that we are today”. The suede-textured walls of each private cabin are dotted with hundreds of LED nano-lights that change color based on the time of day and where the space station is moving relative to Earth.” Just like all the shades of lights and colors of day and night, the The egg will also live by the mood and biorhythm of its osmotic inhabitant,” Starck told Dezeen magazine. It’s meant to “evoke the feeling of being weightless in the womb.”

How does the little guy get there? People power is key, says Kim Macharia, executive director of the Space Prize Foundation, a nonprofit focused on promoting Stem + Arts education and increasing the representation of women in space. Inevitably, this means hidden cryptocurrency opportunists – the surest companion to any exciting modern market. Blockchain companies such as SpaceFund, which claims to invest in space tech start-ups, have previously tried to raise money from space-mad digital enthusiasts, selling NFTs in the form of digital stock options. .

The private space race is “a bit like K-pop,” says Macharia, with frenetic fans spending huge amounts of time supporting rivals SpaceX or Blue Origin online. Depending on who you ask, it’s either space tulip mania or it’s a way to democratize a billionaire boys club. But Macharia is serious about diversifying the space race. “The space industry will never reach its full potential until its workforce is more representative of the global population,” she says. “That means we need to address the disparities plaguing the industry. The future of space and of humanity depends on it. The space industry is currently worth £345bn, she says – by 2040 it will be worth trillions. But there is a lack of talent. And the more people we have coming into the industry, the greater the hysteria around space, the more inventory of space increases, the more talent we attract into the industry, and the more likely we are to reach the escape velocity of our little ball of rock. Or at least make someone else very rich while we die trying.

Why go there at all? No one has yet posted a five-star TripAdvisor review from space. Butlin’s is probably nicer this time of year. But “the exploration itself changes us,” says Dittmar. ‘He’s a great teacher. We adapt our technology and we learn to use the resources we have. Going right to the edge of space, you experience what’s called the overview effect, says Macharia, “that incredible sense of connectedness that astronauts tend to feel, and that makes them think about the type of problems and political conflicts that occur on our planet”. This new perspective that we’re really just on this little blue dot in the middle of the universe. Mmm, nice. I went to Butlin’s and all I got was a lousy T-shirt. Maybe I’d like a piece.

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