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Privately run initiatives (some run in conjunction with national or international space agencies) have become an increasing feature of the current and future space exploration industry. Proposals range from simple, privately run Space Shuttle type services, to Asteroid Mining and to the more ambitious Mars One Project aimed at colonising Mars (see below). However, Space Tourism seems to be the only private space exploration plan that has really, forgive the pun, taken off as yet. However, the fact remains that our own planet is now becoming over-crowded and if it’s humanly possible to find and settle on another one, then now may just be the time to be packing our bags.
The Russian Space Agency has pioneered Space Tourism. Return flights to the International Space Station (ISS) being the main offering, with flights aboard Soyuz craft. Denis Tito is widely acknowledge as the first space tourist. Tito, a multimillionaire, was the first individual to become a traveller and fund his own flight and stay on the ISS. Tickets are not cheap, as is to be expected, with reports suggesting that Tito forked out $20 million for the return ticket and accommodation, thankfully though the accommodation is full-board. In 2013 Tito announced his plans to finance a space-flight to Mars by 2018.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Sir Richard Branson has already joined the fray with Virgin Galactic, promising to provide suborbital passenger flights at the affordable cost of around $200,000. By June 2013 six hundred tickets had been sold to eternally optimistic characters who presumably have rarely, if ever, experienced Virgin Rail. Still awaiting take off, future passengers include Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher and the ever gullible Stephen Hawking. The flights offer a few minutes weightlessness, some pretty impressive views but have yet to actually get off the ground.
Day Seven Hundred and Fifty Three in the Big Brother Space Ship
While seven minutes of weightlessness, a warm bacon and tomato roll and a lengthy delay may appeal to some would be astronauts, the prospect of leaving earth for good seems to be a popular option with many more. The Mars One project created by a Dutch based organisation attempts to fit together a number of modern concepts; space colonisation and reality TV. Potential settlers are actively being sought, the mission will be one way and, perhaps most importantly, televised. In true reality TV style applications are invited and the public can even vote which of the contestants they would like to send on the ultimate one way trip. While some commentators have branded the mission as nothing more than a publicity stunt and others have claimed it’s chances of success are minimal, the project has attracted interest from around the world. Over a two hundred thousand applicants from around the globe have applied to join the mission and the organisers claim that the technology to make the first landings by 2023 exists already. If the mission goes ahead, the phrase ‘car-crash TV’ is likely to take on a whole new meaning.
While some space tourism providers may need to be wishing on a star, wish.co.uk can always deliver.
Although the prospect of life on other worlds fascinates freelance writer and author Chris Hoole, he has no plans to sign up for the latest in reality television.