Five decades after NASA’s Apollo 11 space shuttle competed the first lunar landing in history, several firm led by some of the world’s most recognizable business leaders are competing to offer space tourism for the public – for a steep price.
Three companies have emerged as early leaders in the fledgling space tourism industry. Virgin Galactic, founded by Sir Richard Brandon, SpaceX, founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have all conducted successful flight tests with an eye toward offering commercial space travel in the coming years.
As present, only Virgin Galactic, the Virgin Group subsidiary launched in 2004, has set an official price tag for its commercial space flights. The company has taken hundreds of deposits from would-be passengers who shelled out $250,000 per ticket for a 90-minute suborbital flight, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber, Branson told Reuters last December. Virgin Galactic has yet to say when flights will begin.
Bezos’ initiative, Blue Origin, has yet to announce a price for its trips. However, the firm, which developed the New Shepard space shuttle, is said to be eyeing a price of between $200,000 to $300,000 per seat when it conducts its first trips to space, Reuters reported in July 2018, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Blue Origin is expected to begin selling tickets as soon as this year, with flights to follow soon after.
Musk’s venture, SpaceX, has set its sights even further, touting the potential to eventually conduct one-way flights to Mars. A SpaceX executive said last month that the company was aiming to conduct its first commercial space flights by 2021.
Pricing has yet to be determined, but Musk wrote on Twitter he was “confident” that flights to Mars would one day cost less than $500,000 each.
President Trump met with former Apollo 11 crewmembers Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and the family of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the shuttle mission. The Trump administration has expressed interest in reviving space exploration programs.