There is ample evidence of the fact that prehistoric man was not at all accustomed to sedentary life. That means man is a wanderer by nature. As man became civilized sedentary life got wide acceptance but still, man remained a wanderer by nature. History is replete with evidence of this fact. Europeans imperialized Africa and Asia because of this nature, the discovery of the Americas was caused by this nature, and the voyage to the moon was also because of this nature. Today tourism is a big industry just because man is a wanderer by nature. So, space tourism was destined to start sooner or later.
When it all started?
Space tourism started way back in 2001. Tourism is nothing but traveling purely for recreational purposes. Dennis Tito went to ISS (International space station) in 2001 aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz solely for recreational purposes and became the first space tourist. Tito shelled out $20 million for the trip. Between 2001 and 2009 8 tourists went into orbit utilizing government rockets. It was in 2021 that all-private missions reached orbit. Elon Musk-owned SpaceX made this possible. Quite naturally SpaceX is the space tourism industry leader. No private player can match SpaceX in orbital space tourism. ‘Virgin Galactic’ and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos funded ‘Blue Origin’ are competing for dominance in the suborbital space tourism business.
The distinction between suborbital and orbital space tourism
The basic difference between suborbital space flights and orbital space flights is the speed at which the spacecraft moves. A spacecraft can go into orbit only if it attains orbital velocity (28000 km/hour). A spacecraft that moves at a speed below orbital velocity can never go into orbit and its flight will be called suborbital space flight.
Tourists who go to space on suborbital spacecraft are called suborbital space tourists. They venture into space but never orbit the Earth. If a spacecraft attains orbital velocity it will go into orbit and tourists onboard will become orbital space tourists. SpaceX is the only private company that offers orbital space tourism services. Russian spacecraft Soyuz was the initial provider of orbital space tourism facilities. Suborbital space tourism facility is being provided by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, which are both privately owned. Today dominance of government agencies in the space tourism business has ended. The point to be noted here is that suborbital space flights are rightly called space flights because spacecraft undertaking such flights reach the Karman line before returning to Earth. The Karman line is 100 km above sea level and is a demarcation line between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. So, although said spacecraft may never go into orbit but always venture into space. Suborbital flights failing to reach the Karman line don’t qualify as spaceflights.
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