Instead of buying plane tickets to Hawaii for Christmas vacation in 2012, you could take your family for a five-minute trip into space. So claims Steven G. Wurst, president of Space Access, which plans to build a fleet of eight vehicles for suborbital flights. He notes that his company, founded in 1994, expects to send tourists into suborbital space by 2012 "for about the price of an ocean cruise" and into low Earth orbit by 2015 for "roughly the price of chartering a small business jet." That is, up to a few hundred thousand dollars. A suborbital flight will take you just outside of the Earth's atmosphere, about 62 miles above the ground, and reach a top speed of 4,500 mph. This is not high or fast enough to put the spacecraft into orbit, but you will still get to experience weightlessness for a few minutes. Entering low Earth orbit, your spacecraft will reach a height of at least 100 miles above the planet's surface and fly at speeds approaching 17,500 mph. The spacecraft will orbit the Earth every 90 minutes. Clients will be able to spend up to 10 days in space.
Space Access plans to build a fleet of vehicles to send tourists into suborbital space by 2012 "for about the price of an ocean cruise," company President Steven G. Wurst says.
And Wurst isn't the only one hoping to cash in on space flight for the everyman. A slew of other entrepreneurs are following suit. Following, an overview of the nascent industry. Space tourism, now and then: One day, you may be able to travel to a regional spaceport, like the one being built by space transportation company PlanetSpace on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and hitch a ride on a rocket to the stars. Major aerospace players like Lockheed Martin ( LMT) and Boeing ( BA) are providing funding, support and technology for PlanetSpace's spaceport and spacecraft.