Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 10:47am by The Free Geek
Does the term "space tourism" make you think of The Jetsons? Well, put those cartoon reruns out of your mind, as interstellar travel is now a reality for the common man. Unfortunately, private space travel isn’t cheap. However, you now have a better chance at reaching the stars than ever before. Assuming you don’t have a few billion dollars to spend on building your own space shuttle, we have compiled some alternatives for anyone wishing to explore the final frontier. Your six cheapest options for traveling into space are listed below, organized from least to most expensive.
1. Simulate Your Space Travel
There are various ways to simulate a spaceflight from the safety of Earth. The power of film at an IMAX theater, for example, can make you feel as if you are really in space. In 2002, Space Station was released in theaters. The first 3-D IMAX film ever made, Space Station took viewers 220 miles above the Earth, thanks to official footage from NASA. Narrated by Tom Cruise (insert space cadet and/or Xenu joke here), this was one of the most successful IMAX films ever produced. Traveling through space with the help of this film will cost you under $10. Another simulated expedition through The Milky Way can be taken via the Internet, specifically on Frontier Multimedia‘s site. One of their most extraordinary productions includes The Good Earth. This production uses stock photos taken from satellites, space shuttles, and the International Space Station. Shot from high above the planet, these high-resolution pictures showcase the Earth as a strange and colorful place. This site can be enjoyed for absolutely free, although it is better viewed with a fast Internet connection.
2. Reach the Stars in Your Afterlife
No, we don’t mean figuratively. You really can go into space after you die, thanks to Space Services Incorporated. For as little as $495, this company offers what they call "Memorial Spaceflights," whereby your cremated remains can be placed aboard a satellite and launched into space. The cheapest package, however, is only for a suborbital flight. This means that your ashes will reach the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, then return to the ground where your remains will be found and given to your loved ones. For a permanent stay in orbit, you must pay at least $1295. Deep space launches cost $12500. This company launched the remains of Star Trek actor, James "Scotty" Doohan, in 2007.
3. Take a Suborbital Spaceflight
Although your dream may be to travel to the moon or beyond, it is much more affordable to go on a suborbital spaceflight. A company called The Zero Gravity Corporation offers flights aboard their specially modified Boeing 720-700 aircraft. Known as the G-Force One, this aircraft takes a nosedive between the altitudes of 34,000 and 24,000 feet in order to recreate the weightlessness that astronauts experience in space. The company calls them "Zero G Flights", although the technical term is "parabolic flight" and it is what Ron Howard used to film select scenes in Apollo 13. A seat on the G-Force One can be reserved online with a credit card for only $3500.
4. Become an Astronaut
It is the dream of many children to become an astronaut; and, if you are wanting to travel through space, this is the most conventional way to go about it. Mind you, becoming an astronaut is neither easy nor cheap. Only an elite few will picked by NASA to enter their rigorous, two-year astronaut training program. In fact, out of the thousands of applications NASA receives each two-year period, only about 100 men and women are chosen. As you can imagine, very few of them complete their training. As for cost, only college graduates can become astronauts. Applicants must have at least a bachelor degree, which is expensive in itself, and the best candidates have a post-graduate degree.
5. Fly With Virgin Galactic
Owned by eccentric billionaire Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic heralds itself as "the world’s first spaceline". The company is set to carry six paying customers into space at a time using a commercial spacecraft. Although Virgin Galactic has yet to take its maiden voyage with customers, there have been several successful test flights with the spacecraft in question. Many people are already on a waiting list to go into space with the company and become astronauts from the private sector, including celebrities and politicians. Tickets are currently set at $200,000 each and, although a bit steep, it is the cheapest option for public travel in what is technically known as "outer space". Using your credit card, you can book a reservation with Virgin Galactic on their official Web site. A minimum deposit of $20,000 is required.
6. Become a Cosmonaut
Since Virgin Galactic won’t serve the public for a few more years, the only way that you can currently buy a ticket to outer space is through the Russian Federal Space Agency. Assuming you can pass required physical and mental examinations, you can accompany the Russians on a trip to the International Space Station for a reported $21 million. However, that price is expected to climb quickly and on the outside chance that you can actually swing it, you should be aware that you will be sitting on a waiting list for at least two or three years. Granted, some of your "cheapest" options for space travel aren’t that cheap. However, you should consider the fact that a NASA space shuttle costs $1.7 billion to construct. So, even though you can’t use your frequent flyer rewards card to get a discount on your trip to outer space, the cost is quite small considering the price of constructing a spacecraft. If you still can’t afford a trip with Virgin Galactic or the Russian Federal Space Agency, you can always wait until you are cremated, try to become an astronaut or merely live the experience through film for free. Whatever you decide, it is nice to know that those who dream of reaching the stars have a good chance at making that dream come true.