- House and Senate negotiators reach two-year budget deal
- Congress seeks ban on in-flight calls
- Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy site sold to owners of Townhall, HotAir: report
- GM’s Barra to be first woman to run top American carmaker
- China: Poisonous smog is a military asset, if you think about it
- Texas woman admits to sending ricin to Obama
- Ron Paul on son Rand: ‘I think he probably will’ run for president
- Cold War heats up again in the Arctic: Russian airfield reactivated after 20 years
- 6-year-old boy suspended for sexual harassment over kiss
- Voters deciding Mass. congressional contest
Space-tour marketers see growth potential
Fewer than 500 people have traveled to space throughout history. But space tourism advocates want that to change as soon as possible.
Advocates of private space travel say it could open up a new commercial space industry that would provide job and economic-growth opportunities as well as the possibility for space-based solar power. They also say it is the next step in adventure travel, such as African safaris or trips to Antarctica.
"Humans like to go to new and unique places and have unique experiences," said John Spencer, founder of the Space Tourism Society, which aims to promote the space tourism industry. "We have seen that throughout history."
Mr. Spencer described the "overview effect" of space travel, which advocates say would lead people to feel more unified despite differences among countries.
The commercial space industry can create various entrepreneurial opportunities, said Jeff Krukin, the executive director of the Space Frontier Foundation. Founded in 1988, the Space Frontier Foundation, which ends its four-day annual conference in Arlington County's Crystal City today, is a group composed of space activists, scientists, engineers, politicians, entrepreneurs and others devoted to opening to the private sector space travel and even potential space settlement.
"One industry leads to new opportunities in other industries," he said.
Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Commerce have offices devoted to the regulation of commercial space travel and business.
The commercial space industry is rapidly expanding.
Overall, 21 commercial orbital launches occurred worldwide in 2006, which made up 32 percent of all launches for the year, according to the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
Several state governments also are joining the commercial space movement, Mr. Krukin said.
In April, the Virginia state legislature enacted a law to help boost commercial space activity by allowing use of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island. MARS was one of the nation's first nonfederal spaceports when the FAA granted its license in 1997. It is now joined by six more across the country. Last year, Congress funded a $500,000 study into expanding the Wallops facility into a "next-generation commercial cargo spaceport."
"Virginia is an example of one of the states that aren't waiting for NASA or the federal government," Mr. Krukin said.
Several space tourists already have entered space, and the industry is growing at a rapid pace, Mr. Spencer said.
Space Adventures, a Vienna, Va., company, books passage on Russian rockets that take their customers on orbits above Earth and then to the International Space Station, where they stay for 10 days. So far, five persons have paid between $20 million and $25 million to travel on the orbital flights.
For the even more adventurous with $100 million to spend, Space Adventures is developing the first private flight around the moon.
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 difference, Mr. Spencer said, is that Virgin Galactic will offer a suborbital flight, which does not allow the private space traveler to fly around the Earth.
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."
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Harry Reid's visa pressure cooker
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- Galaxy S4 owner claims Samsung tried to silence him after phone caught fire
- 6-year-old boy suspended for sexual harassment over kiss
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
- Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu backs out of Nelson Mandela funeral
- Obama shakes hands with Cuba's Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
A column dedicated to discussing politics, national security, civil liberties, and education.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
The “Silver Tsunami” created by aging Baby Boomers is hitting America. Let’s explore how we adjust to it, enjoy it and defy negative expectations about age.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow