by Leigh Ann Howe

Suborbital Tourism. Touring space has been a dream of many since Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. Now just 35 years later, the race to get commercial space tourism is off the ground as private enterprises are moving quickly towards launch dates. And the competition for commercial space tourism seems to be heating up.

The Contenders:

  • SpaceShipOne, backed by billionaire Paul Allen and designed by aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan, will take its inaugural flight on September 29th. If all goes well, the second launch will follow on October 4th. The test flight on June 21st went well – climbing 62 miles to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere.
  • The da Vinci Project, based in Toronto, has its first launch date scheduled for October 2nd. They are already working on an 8 person vehicle that should be ready in 2006.
  • Canadian Arrow in London, Ontario is also a contender. This team is scheduled to launch its rocket before year end.
  • Space Transport Corp. is running behind after their test of an unmanned rocket ended up in the Pacific Ocean in August.
  • Armadillo Aerospace has also suffered setbacks due to a crash after a test launch.

A Window Seat, Please. It may be a while before you can book your space flight on Orbitz, but the test flight has gone so well for SpaceShipOne that suborbital tourism may become reality soon. However, the ticket prices are sure to be quite shocking for a while. And it isn’t the technology that is slowing the process down, but politics. Congress would have to clear the way to grant launches from a U.S. licensed commercial spaceport. Right now for example, it costs about $200,000 per launch to use the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It will be quite interesting to see what the next 35 years brings.