The Rise of Space Tourism: From Tito to Bezos and Beyond

a man in a space suit flying through the air

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With Blue Origin‘s recent announcement that the company will resume space tourist flights after an almost two-year hiatus resulting from a failed, unmanned test flight in 2022, the space tech industry is abuzz with talk of the growing sector. Space tourism is the commercial activity of travelling into space for recreational purposes, rather than scientific or professional reasons. The exciting industry has seen a surge in recent years, with several companies offering seats on their spacecraft to citizens willing to pay a premium to experience spaceflight.

The Pioneers of Space Tourism

The history of space tourism goes back to April 2001, when American businessman and engineer Dennis Tito became the first-ever space tourist to travel to space aboard a Soyuz-TM32 spacecraft, sponsored by Space Adventures. Since then, 63 individuals have experienced the thrill of spaceflight as tourists, with notable surges in private individuals launching in 2021 and 2022.

 

Number of Space Tourists by year
Data Source Credit: Jonathan’s Space Report by Jonathan McDowell (https://planet4589.org/)

 

Key Players in the Space Tourism Industry

Number of Space Tourists by Space Tourism Sponsor Company
Data Source Credit:  Jonathan’s Space Report by Jonathan McDowell (https://planet4589.org/)

There are five key sponsoring companies in the space tourism industry:

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Blue Origin

  • Founder: Jeff Bezos
  • Spacecraft: New Shepard
  • First manned mission: Blue Origin NS-16 Mission, July 2021

Virgin Galactic

  • Founder: Richard Branson
  • Spacecraft: SpaceShipTwo spaceplane
  • First manned mission: Galactic 01 Mission, June 2023

Space Adventures

  • Founders: Eric C Anderson and Peter Diamandis
  • Spacecraft: Russian Soyuz
  • First manned mission: MZ Mission, December 2021

SpaceX

  • Founder: Elon Musk
  • Spacecraft: Crew Dragon
  • First manned mission: Inspiration4 Mission, September 2021.

Axiom Space

  • Founder: Kam Ghaffarian
  • Spacecraft: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon
  • First manned mission: Axiom-1 Mission, April 2022

A New Era of Space Exploration

As the space tourism industry continues to grow, more and more private citizens are gaining access to the final frontier. Companies like Blue Origin, which recently announced the resumption of its space tourist flights after a two-year hiatus, are paving the way for a new era of space exploration.

 

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