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Tourism Space Race

Demand for seats aboard Jeff Bezos’ New Shepard rocket is already exploding, as Blue Origin has sold nearly $100 million worth of tickets for future passenger flights. “The demand is very, very high,” said Bezos.

Although Blue Origin has not publicly disclosed how much the tickets cost, a seat next to Bezos on the New Shepard’s maiden voyage was auctioned off at a cool $28 million.

According to Bezos, Blue Origin will launch twice more with passengers this year. Two New Shepard rocket boosters are currently stationed at Blue Origin’s facility in Texas, one for passenger flights and the other for research cargo flights.

“We really do want to practice with this vehicle, so we’re going to have to build more boosters … to fly more frequently,” Bezos said.

As Blue Origin powers ahead into the budding space tourism industry, Virgin Galactic is right alongside.

Sir Richard Branson announced at a company event that George Whitesides, the former CEO of Virgin Galactic will be aboard the company’s next spaceflight test.

The launch date and manifest for Unity 23 are currently unknown, but Virgin Galactic had previously aimed at launching twice more in the coming months. Based on the timing between their last two launches, Unity 23 may end up being scheduled for late August or early September.

Virgin Galactic plans to start passenger flights in early 2022 and already has about 600 reservations booked at a $250,000 price tag.

But the price of going to space may be dropping, as new company Space Perspective is entering the scene with trips to the edge of space starting at $125,000. The company has just made a successful flight from Cape Canaveral.

This flight is quite different from Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic flights, as passengers will board Spaceship Neptune – a space capsule carried by a high altitude balloon. 

Technically a balloon would be useless in space, so Spaceship Neptune offers passengers views from about 20 miles high, without a weightless experience. The generally accepted altitude of the edge of space is 60 miles, but Space Perspective says space is what you see.

Taber MacCallum, Space Perspective’s Chief Technology Officer said, “We’re right at 99%; in that last 1% of the atmosphere, floating at about 20 miles. So for all intents and purposes, we’re in space.”

For $125,000, The flight is a leisurely experience where up to 8 guests will make a 6 hour journey before splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, and champagne is included.

According to Space Perspective CEO Jane Poynter, “We’ve had people buy up entire flights so they can take their friends and families. We’ve had people buy several flights. There’s huge demand.” Flights from the Space Coast aboard Spaceship Neptune could start as early as 2024.

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