For those without millions to spend, several companies are developing space tourism flights with smaller price tags.
Space tourism company Virgin Galactic has predicted it will be able to sellspace tourist flights by 2009.
The company, which was started by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, plans to offer one 2½-hour flight per week with six passengers and two pilots. Ticket prices are set to start at $200,000. In February, Virgin Galactic and NASA signed anagreement allowing Virgin Galactic access to NASA research facilities in California.
Mr. Branson is not the only billionaire interested in space.
“Some of the smartest most successful business people in the world are taking part in this exciting new industry,” Mr. Spencer said.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos founded the company Blue Origin in 2005 with the aim of building an suborbital space facility in Texas.
Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen financed the creation of SpaceShipOne, which was designed by aerospace designer Burt Rutan, who also designed the Voyager, the first airplane to circle the world nonstop without refueling.
SpaceShipOne became the first manned, private spaceship when it was launched in June 2004. It is on display in the National Air and Space Museum.
The demand for private space tourism opportunities is continuing to grow, Mr. Spencer said.
Bethesda’s Futron Corp., an aerospace consulting firm, projects that by 2020, more than 13,000 people will have taken part in the space tourism industry, generating almost $700 million in revenue.
Mr. Krukin acknowledged that there is a safety risk with space tourism.
“It is very important to be aware that once these crafts start flying, that just like with commercial aircraft one day there will be an accident,” he said.
But he said it is a risk he believes many people will be willing to take.
“It is very clear that at such an early stage there are risks,” he said. “The wonderful thing is that there are so many people who want to take the risk anyway.”
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