NEW FRON­TIERS

It’s the ques­tion on ev­ery multi-mil­lion­aire’s lips, and in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture , Mike Peake says, a trip into the inky black­ness be­yond Earth’s at­mos­phere may be some­thing for the rest of us to con­tem­plate, too

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

Space travel for ev­ery bud­get. (The free one is a one-way trip, and it’s al­ready fully booked.)

You would, wouldn’t you. If you could get a cast-iron guar­an­tee from what­ever God you be­lieve in that you’d come back in one piece, you’d hap­pily step aboard a rocket and see what it’s like to go to space. Once safety’s taken care of, the only other ma­jor stum­bling block would be the fee. It’s the ul­ti­mate $64,000 ques­tion (ac­tu­ally prob­a­bly more than a $64,000 ques­tion): just how deep would you dig into your pock­ets to get there?

To help you gauge the like­li­hood of whether or not this is some­thing that you gen­uinely have to grap­ple with over the com­ing years, we’ve come up with a slid­ing scale of what you need to pay for a lit­tle slice of the Buzz Lightyear ex­pe­ri­ence…

BUD­GET: $0

If you’d been more proac­tive (and ex­tremely lucky), you could have been one of the ap­pli­cants short­listed for Mars One, a Nether­lands-based ven­ture that aims to put four people on Mars by 2031. Un­for­tu­nately, their free tick­ets are one-way only as the am­bi­tious non-profit be­hind this mis­sion aims to es­tab­lish a colony on the red planet, but by miss­ing out you at least won’t have to spend months in a space­craft throw­ing furtive glances at mem­bers of the op­po­site sex and won­der­ing if they’re the one for you. Next best thing? The ISS HD Live app, which gives you an In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion-eye-view of Earth in real time.

BUD­GET: $5,000

Amer­i­can com­pany ZERO G has a Boe­ing 727 that will give you what’s prob­a­bly the most af­ford­able of all space-like ex­pe­ri­ences, even though you don’t ac­tu­ally en­ter space at all. In­stead, the air­craft – cheer­ily known as the “vomit comet” – has a big open space in its belly which you can bounce around in when the plane drops like a stone. When it does, you get to ex­pe­ri­ence zero-grav­ity on a se­ries of what’s known as par­a­bolic ma­noeu­vres. The ex­pe­ri­ence costs $4,995 for about 15 of these 20-30 sec­ond stom­achchurn­ers, or you can char­ter the whole plane and take 33 bud­dies with you for $165,000. As­tro­physi­cist Stephen Hawk­ing had a go and said it was “amaz­ing”.

BUD­GET: $75,000

The ex­act point at which space be­gins is a hotly de­bated is­sue. There is some­thing called the Kar­man line, which is 100km above sea level, and many wise men per­ceive the cross­ing of this to be the mo­ment you exit the Earth. Others reckon it’s fur­ther out than that, though NASA deems any­one who has been more than 80km from the Earth to be an astro­naut. Which­ever way you look at it, dare­devil Aus­trian Felix Baum­gart­ner was most def­i­nitely not in space when he made his fa­mous Red Bull Stratos sky­dive in 2012. Baum­gart­ner was at an al­ti­tude of 39km when he jumped from his hot-air bal­loon, but what what was clear from the im­ages beamed around the world was that this is plenty high enough to feel like you’re in space; the cur­va­ture of the earth and the black­ness of the skies above were both read­ily ap­par­ent. While Baum­gart­ner needed a spe­cial suit to save him from all man­ner of prob­lems that would be caused by both air pres­sure and ex­treme cold, an Amer­i­can com­pany named World View En­ter­prises hopes to of­fer the same kind of view within two years, but from within the com­fort of a sealed gon­dola. ‘You’ll be safely and se­curely sail­ing at the very thresh­old of the heav­ens, skim­ming the edge of space,’ they write of their pro­posed $75,000-a-head bal­loon ad­ven­ture. Span­ish com­pany Zero 2 In­fin­ity hopes to of­fer a ri­val ser­vice for a re­puted price tag of around $120,000 by 2018.

BUD­GET: $100,000+

Al­though he’s not yet sell­ing tick­ets and pub­lic flights are still a cou­ple of years away, $100,000 has been men­tioned sev­eral times as the pos­si­ble en­try fee for a ride on Ama­zon founder Jeff Be­zos’ New Shep­ard. For some time now, the Amer­i­can has been sell­ing off a bil­lion dol­lars of stock ev­ery year to fund his space com­pany Blue Ori­gin, one arm of which is fo­cused on space tourism, and New Shep­ard is his six-pas­sen­ger, 15 cu­bic me­tre cap­sule that will be con­trolled by com­put­ers and will cruise to an al­ti­tude of around 100km. Four min­utes of weight­less­ness

prom­ise to be the main at­trac­tion, al­though those views are not to be sniffed at either: Amer­i­can astro­naut Scott Parazyn­ski told Fri­day a cou­ple of years ago that when he spent time in space, ‘whether you’re there for two weeks or two months, look­ing out the win­dow is the ul­ti­mate treat.’

BUD­GET: $125,000

Ja­panese firm PD Aero­space are work­ing on a craft that is promis­ing a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence to Be­zos, but they ap­pear to be some way be­hind the pack in terms of de­vel­op­ment. Ini­tial test­ing, in fact, is not due to be­gin un­til 2020 – and it will be at least three years af­ter that be­fore they plan on tak­ing pay­ing space tourists. Im­pres­sively, how­ever, their CEO Shuji Ogawa told CNBC in December that they hoped that the price of a ticket may one day tum­ble from around $125,000 to un­der $4,000. ‘We want to of­fer space tours to or­di­nary people,’ he said.

BUD­GET: $250,000

Richard Bran­son has sold a re­ported 700 tick­ets at this price (though the odd free­bie to spe­cial pals like Stephen Hawk­ing seems to have been forth­com­ing, too), and while people have been talk­ing about his Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic com­pany mak­ing it to space for over a decade, it does fi­nally seem that the ebul­lient Brit is al­most there. Bran­son is de­ter­mined to be the first to of­fer com­mer­cial space-flight to the masses, and de­spite

Richard BRAN­SON is de­ter­mined to be the FIRST to of­fer com­mer­cial space-flight to the MASSES and de­spite mul­ti­ple set­backs he be­lieves that in 2018 his first pas­sen­gers would leave EARTH.

mul­ti­ple set­backs – in­clud­ing the tragic death of one of his test pi­lots in 2014 – Bran­son hinted last year that 2018 might be when his first pas­sen­gers would leave Earth. He is promis­ing a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence in which six pas­sen­gers will join two pi­lots in a craft named SpaceShipTwo, which has just en­joyed its third suc­cess­ful glide flight test above the Mo­jave Desert.

BUD­GET: $20M

This is the price that Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire Dennis Tito paid in 2001 when he be­came the world’s first pay­ing space tourist. The fee was paid to a US com­pany named Space Ad­ven­tures and, with more than a lit­tle help from the Rus­sian Soyuz space pro­gramme, was good enough for the wealthy busi­ness­man to spend six days on the ISS. At least an­other six people have fol­lowed suit in the years that have fol­lowed, each thought to have paid a sim­i­lar amount. Space Ad­ven­tur­ers are still of­fer­ing trips to the ISS, dur­ing which you will com­plete full or­bits of the Earth ev­ery 90 min­utes from a height of around 400km. If you have an­other $15m spare, you can take a 90-minute space-walk – one of those teth­ered-to-a-life­line ex­pe­ri­ences where you step out of the ISS and become one of an even more elite band of as­tro­nauts. The fee also buys you an ad­di­tional eight days on the ISS. ‘There is risk in­volved in go­ing out­side, but if you’re go­ing to sign up for that and ac­cept the risk, then fine,’ three-time space­walker Tom Jones told Space.com.

BUD­GET: $70M

Next year, Elon Musk – the third bil­lion­aire player along­side Be­zos and Bran­son in the new space race – is promis­ing to take two as-yet-uniden­ti­fied pay­ing tourists on a lap of the moon. Musk owns a com­pany named SpaceX, which is al­ready do­ing tons of don­key-work for NASA and is even plan­ning to take their as­tro­nauts to the ISS very soon. The one-off round-the-moon jour­ney will make use of the SpaceX Fal­con Heavy rocket and Dragon 2 cap­sule, and will last for about a week. What’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant about the flight is that it may take the two tourists 450,000-650,000km away from Earth, which would mean they have trav­elled fur­ther away from their home planet than any other hu­man in ex­is­tence. The price is ru­moured to be around $70m, and one ad­ven­tur­ous pair have re­port­edly paid a hefty de­posit.

BUD­GET: $10BN

Within five years, Mr Musk thinks the first of a se­ries of SpaceX rock­ets that he plans to take to Mars may start its long jour­ney. The trip will likely take six to nine months and the op­ti­mistic souls on board might need to pay as much as $10bn to cover their costs. It all sounds slightly lu­di­crous, of course, and in­deed many people do think that the Tesla Mo­tors co-founder’s Mar­tian dreams will never get off the ground (no pun in­tended), but Dr Robert Zubrin, pres­i­dent of the Mars So­ci­ety (an or­gan­i­sa­tion com­mit­ted to putting man on Mars), once told Fri­day that he thinks Musk has the best chance of pulling it off. ‘He’s go­ing to face in­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges,’ Zubrin said, ‘be­cause there are op­po­nents with pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal al­lies that could po­ten­tially snuff him out. But Musk is on the march.’ Musk’s long-term goal is to create a mil­lion-strong colony of hu­mans on Mars, and the South African-born en­tre­pre­neur reck­ons that it would take be­tween 40 and 100 years to get that many people there. The fu­ture of mankind, he says, is at stake: ‘I think there are re­ally two fun­da­men­tal paths,’ said Musk last year. ‘One path is we stay on Earth for­ever, and then there will be some even­tual ex­tinc­tion event. The al­ter­na­tive is to become a space-bear­ing civil­i­sa­tion and a mul­ti­plan­e­tary species, which I hope you would agree is the right way to go.’ If you do, dig deep – or if the pock­ets don’t quite stretch to $10bn you could al­ways wait, as the price could one day tum­ble to as low as $100,000 per per­son. For many of us, how­ever, there is lit­tle chance of this ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing in our life­times.

22

When Felix Baum­gart­ner jumped off a hot air bal­loon he was only 39km above sea level – not high enough to be called an astro­naut, but thrill-seeker nev­er­the­less

For about 15 sec­onds Stephen Hawk­ing tried out ZERO G’s par­a­bolic ma­noeu­vres – better known as zero grav­ity

Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire Jeff Be­zos’ Blue Ori­gin space com­pany of­fers four min­utes of weight­less­ness for about $100,000

Elon Musk’s space tourism com­pany of­fers to take two pas­sen­gers fur­ther in to space than any other

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