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22 May, 2009 10:36

Space tourism is dead, long live space tourism

The prospects of space tourism may seem in doubt now after the Russian space agency announced it’s almost doubled the price of the orbital ticket to more than $50 million. But enthusiasts remain hopeful.

RT has discussed what the future may hold for would-be non-professional space explorers with Pavel Sharov, editor of News of Space magazine, and Fred Weir from the Christian Science Monitor.

Sharov points out that even before the news came, Roscosmos was planning to shut down its space tourism programme altogether.

“A spot on the October launch has become available after Kazakhstan officials said they will not fly their national cosmonaut this fall. Who knows? Maybe the next space tourist will fly in the next months to come,” he said.

The journalist believes space tourism will live on in one form or another. There are options to use other spacecraft rather than Soyuz in going to the International Space Station, and the Space Adventure company, the organizer of the trips, is already exploring options with Energia corporation, a leading spacecraft producer.

There are also private projects like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and their effort to provide suborbital flights on privately developed spaceships at a relatively affordable price tag.

Fred Weir agrees that space travel will eventually cease to be entertainment for a select few.

“I certainly want to go into space, and I think most people do. As in centuries past, some things were impossible. Only explorers went to Australia in the beginning, but then the masses followed. I think space is like that. These people, although they are rich and privileged, are kind of blazing the trail for the rest of us,” he said.