The world watched with awe the suborbital flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity by British business magnate Richard Branson and his team on July 11, 2021. A few days later, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket took Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos and his small team just past the edge of space.
Heralded as the birth of NewSpace, these ventures by starry-eyed new age billionaires, including Musk’s SpaceX, are seen as the advent of space tourism as a commercial venture. With a ride costing about USD 250,000, it is reported that already 600 firm bookings have been made by these three enterprises.
Neither Branson nor Bezos is the first tourist to space. Toyohiro Akiyama, a journalist from the Tokyo Broadcasting System, spent seven days aboard the Soviet Union’s Mir space station, about 500 km above the earth, for a fee of $12 million from his employers. The fete of Branson and Bezos pale in comparison.
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