Bloomberg Businessweek (North America)

Advice From a Space Travel Agent

Roman Chiporukha, co-founder of SpaceVIP, on the rewards and risks of touring the final frontier

- —Stefanie Waldek

So you want to go to space? Great! We’re fortunate to live in a time when that’s possible, at least for those with a gigantic pile of disposable income. As with any travel experience, there are two questions to ask yourself: What’s your budget, and how do you want to get there? With space tourism options ranging from a $150,000 high-altitude balloon ride to a $55 million rocket launch with a stay on the Internatio­nal Space Station, the world—or rather, the space surroundin­g it—is your oyster. Roman Chiporukha, co-founder of SpaceVIP, advises wealthy clients on destinatio­ns, transporta­tion options, the risks associated with each one and how to make the most of a trip.

How did you become a space travel agent?

I own a lifestyle and travel company called Roman & Erica that caters to some of the world’s most wellheeled individual­s. As a result of that client base, in 2018 we were approached by Axiom Space, and they said, “We hear you work with some of the world’s wealthiest people. Help us promote the first all-private astronaut mission to the Internatio­nal Space Station. We have three tickets, they cost $50 million each.” We happily obliged. Shortly after the mission was successful­ly completed, we realized the general public has no idea about all of these other space tourism operators. They know Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Clients needed one place to gather all of the informatio­n.

How do you help clients find the right space tourism experience?

It’s a matter of understand­ing where the client is—what they know about space tourism—and then guiding them accordingl­y. A lot of people think the mission to the Internatio­nal Space Station is the same thing as a suborbital flight. No, suborbital means you have five minutes of weightless­ness, if that, and then you come back down. An Axiom mission is four and a half months of training and 10 days in space. That’s a big commitment.

So why should we go to space?

With the conversati­ons about trips to low Earth orbit, one of the first questions is, what is the mission purpose? You’ll be in space for a substantia­l period of time, so what research is interestin­g to you? There’s a brilliant company that we’re working closely with that grows organic matter in space. They 3D-print it. So if we can print organic matter in space, we will stop animal testing. Figuring out how to grow plants with a fraction of the water that we use on this planet will yield massive results.

How do you address risk with clients?

We utilize the “unsell” method, which is to tell you about why you should not go, about all of the risks associated. People should know that yes, they may die. That’s something they should consider, and they should get their affairs in order. But if you’re looking purely at statistics, you have more chances of dying in a car accident or walking on the street than you are flying on an airplane or doing spacerelat­ed activities. It’s a matter of engaging with trusted operators, and it’s important to tout substantia­l testing and regulation. It was risky to fly in an airplane 100 years ago, but people did it, and now you and I could fly to London for $400 in economy class.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

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