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Journey to the Beyond

Space tourism with its challenges and excitement, currently accessible only to billionaires, holds the potential to expose a wider set of people to the views of earth’s horizon and zero-g experiences in the future

Issue: 06-2024By Ayushee ChaudharyPhoto(s): By Blue Origin, Space Aura, NASA, abovespacedev / X

Recently, Blue Origin completed its seventh human spaceflight and the 25th flight for the New Shepard programme. The flight carried astronauts Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, Gopi Thotakura, and former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight. Dwight, who was selected as the nation’s first Black astronaut candidate, never had the opportunity to fly until now at the age of 90. His flight was an example of the expanding possibilities of people going to space. With this flight, New Shepard has flown a total of 37 people into space.

The journey aboard Blue Origin’s spacecraft lasted about ten minutes. While this was one of the shortest trips to space, this flight restarted the conversation around space tourism, its charm, its feasibility, etc. This flight was a sub-orbital spaceflight, which crossed the Karman line, the 100 km boundary of space, before descending back to Earth. Most current space tourism offerings are similar sub-orbital flights, but longer journeys are also available, including orbital flights that can involve spending days on the International Space Station (ISS). The first space tourist, Dennis Tito, spent over seven days on the ISS in 2001. According to NASA, the first private astronaut mission to the station was Axiom Space’s Axiom Mission-1 that carried four astronauts aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft named Endeavour. 13 private visitors, known as spaceflight participants, from seven countries have visited the orbital outpost.


While on one hand, there was a ray of optimism for space tourism through the Blue Origin mission, on the other hand we witnessed the announcement of cancellation of the dearMoon mission, highlighting the challenges that space tourism endures. Originally booked in 2018 for a 2023 launch, the project, named dearMoon, was scrapped due to delays in Starship’s development. Despite SpaceX’s advancements, including an uncrewed test reaching orbital velocity in March 2024, Starship has not yet completed a successful mission. Starship has yet to fly to the moon, carry people, or achieve orbit. Maezawa was announced as the first customer for SpaceX’s Starship in September 2018 and has made a significant down payment. Originally, the mission was slated for 2023. SpaceX is focused on making Starship operational for a crewed lunar landing under NASA’s Human Landing System contract and to support Starlink satellite launches. SpaceX is preparing for a fourth integrated test flight of Starship/Super Heavy to demonstrate that both stages can return to the surface without breaking apart.

Currently, the high costs of space travel restrict it to highnet-worth individuals. However, as technology advances, prices are expected to decrease, making space tourism more accessible. More affordable options, such as high-altitude balloon flights offering views of the Earth’s curvature, are also emerging. The rapid development of space tourism reflects growing public interest and investment, suggesting a promising future for this industry. As it continues to evolve, space tourism is set to become a more attainable dream for many, expanding the horizons of human exploration and adventure.


In 2021, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX launched their inaugural private space tourism missions. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin sent their CEOs, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, into suborbital space within 10 days of each other, offering a few minutes of weightlessness. SpaceX facilitated a chartered flight by billionaire Jared Isaacman using its Crew Dragon spacecraft. Isaacman and three companions orbited Earth for three days without professional astronaut assistance, marking a first in space tourism. Maezawa also made headlines by spending 12 days aboard the ISS via the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. These initial flights, largely chartered by billionaires, revamped the way for space tourism.

The costs for each of these flights are without question only for high-net worth individuals for now. However, despite the challenges in space travel, the hope is that the prices will come down, democratising space travel and making it accessible and affordable to more and more people. Some companies offer high-altitude balloon rides, reaching heights of about 1,00,000 feet for $50,000, allowing passengers to see the curvature of the Earth without experiencing weightlessness. While the exact costs can be known once you apply for any of these flights and contact the respective companies, reports suggest that a similar journey (like that of Blue Origin’s recent flight) on Virgin Galactic costs about $4,50,000 (about ₹3.75 crore). A journey to the ISS can range between 20 to 25 million dollars (about ₹160 to 210 crore). SpaceX and Space Adventures plan lunar trips costing $70 to $100 million (about ₹600 to 850 crore).

Virgin Galactic aims to offer regular suborbital flights with its VSS Unity spaceplane. Despite delays and setbacks, they are moving closer to commercial flights with an extensive waitlist and a £2,00,000 deposit requirement. While SpaceX plans lunar tourism with future missions, including sending paying customers around the Moon. And Blue Origin aims to use its New Shepard rocket for suborbital flights and plans to offer orbital flights.

Apart from the three companies mentioned above, many others are also facilitating taking humans to space. While some are working on rockets and balloons to allow space travel, some others are working on creating space stations and space hotels for habitation. An Indian company like Space Aura plans to take humans to the edge of space in its space balloon. Through NASA’s Commercial Crew Development programme, Boeing is also developing the CST-100 Starliner capsule, allowing them to sell seats to tourists, ensuring at least one tourist per mission. Axiom Space organises private flights to the ISS, priced at $55 million per trip. Companies like above are working on creating space architecture. Voyager Station is in talks to become the first space hotel. While these missions are capital intensive, and spread across long timeliness, these companies are making significant strides in offering options for those eager to venture beyond Earth’s boundaries and experience the overview effect of looking at the Earth’s horizon against the darkness of space.


Space tourism, while exciting, faces several significant challenges. The foremost hurdle is the cost. Safety is another critical concern. Space travel inherently involves high risks, as evidenced by several high-profile rocket failures. Ensuring passenger safety requires rigorous testing and failsafe measures, which are both time-consuming and expensive.

Additionally, the environmental impact of more such flights when they become frequent might also arise. However, the fact that reusability is at the centre of the technologies being developed by companies including SpaceX and Blue Origin for their space flight gives a better hope for sustainable space travel in the future.

Lastly, the physical demands on passengers are significant. Even short suborbital flights expose travelers to high G-forces and require them to be in good health. While the bracket of people who can now go to space is expanding, it is still crucial. Comprehensive training is necessary to prepare tourists for the physical and psychological stresses of space travel, which adds another layer of complexity to the industry.


Virgin Galactic’s tragic accident in 2014, where a test flight crashed, underscored the risks involved. Similarly, SpaceX has faced setbacks, including the explosion during the uncrewed Starship test flight in April 2023. Blue Origin also had to address safety concerns after a booster failure during a cargo mission in 2022.

Overcoming these challenges will be crucial for the future growth and sustainability of space tourism. Companies are making strides, but the path forward involves continued innovation, investment, and attention to safety and environmental impacts.


The rigorous training for professional astronauts traveling to the ISS or undertaking longer missions to the moon and beyond is far more extensive than that for space tourists. However, space tourists, who also experience becoming astronauts, still undergo essential training, including understanding mission procedures, safety systems, zero-gravity protocols, and participating in mission simulations, etc. While suborbital flights require minimal training included in the ticket price, more extensive training is necessary for orbital and ISS missions. Despite the differences, both astronauts and space tourists undergo physical and psychological preparation and share the profound “overview effect,” a cognitive shift in awareness upon seeing Earth from space, fostering a sense of global unity and environmental consciousness.


The global space tourism market was valued at $851.4 million in 2023 and is projected to reach $555 million by 2030, according to German data platform Statista. The space economy encompasses all activities and resources that create value and benefits for humanity through space exploration, research, understanding, management, and utilisation, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This includes all public and private sectors involved in developing, providing, and using space-related products, services, and scientific knowledge. Space tourism is a small yet growing segment within this larger industry. Trends such as increasing public interest, rising private investment in space ventures, and growing industry revenues suggest that the space industry could become the next trillion-dollar industry by 2040.

  • Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of more than $1 trillion in 2040.
  • UBS says by 2030 travel via outer space will reach $20 billion/year, competing with long-distance airline flights.
  • NASA recently funded three companies to develop commercial space stations, totaling $415M.

Technological advancements and rising interest in space access are driving the growth of the space tourism market. Space tourism is now a reality and despite the challenges and high risks, as companies innovate and improve efficiency, the cost of space travel is expected to decrease over time.

Space tourism has a long history, but it took decades for technology, public interest and private companies to align towards making it feasible. Lower launch costs and diverse options have fueled interest among the wealthy, potentially transforming the space sector. Despite initial skepticism, space tourism is projected to become a $12.7 billion industry by 2031.

A recent report by the World Economic Forum underlined that by 2035, new commercial activities such as manufacturing and tourism are likely to become possible and expand in space. The growth of the space tourism industry will depend on several factors, including the capacity to accommodate people in orbit, regulation and legislation, and interest from end-users. Until 2035, the market size is expected to remain capped at around $4-6 billion per year, with most of the space tourism revenues coming from in-orbit stays aboard space stations as ultra-high-net-worth customers purchase their space travel experience. Sub-orbital flights are expected to continue and become more financially accessible, but will represent only a small share of the market (no more than $1-2 billion per year by 2035). As space tourism edges closer, research on long-term human habitability in space will gain traction, unlocking new markets and areas of research.

While space tourism is still in its early stages, the vision of making it accessible to a broader audience is becoming increasingly realistic. As advancements continue and costs decrease, the dream of reaching the edge of space is moving closer to reality. This shift promises exciting times ahead and significant growth for the space industry.