Who hasn’t dreamed about going into space one day? Planet Earth is nice and all, but when you look up in the night sky and see all those stars, moons and planets, it just begs for exploration. Those of us raised on Star Trek and Star Wars have a head full of space fantasies, but today the reality is upon us. Not all of us have the right stuff to become a full-fledged astronaut, but opportunities are opening up for regular folks with deep pockets to experience the thrill of space travel. There have already been a handful of civilians up in the skies, and many more have made reservations for upcoming liftoffs. Here are nine companies actively working on space tourism projects, including a few contests that anyone can try for. The future is now. Start the countdown to your own space trip.
1. Zero G Weightless Experience
Most brides want to loose a few pounds before their wedding, but here’s a way you can be completely weightless on your big day. Yes, you can arrange a zero gravity wedding and float like a couple of astronauts in your white gown and tux. Wedding or not, Zero Gravity Corporation has been in operation since 2004 and is the most immediate and affordable way non-multimillionaires can experience this thrill. You’re not really traveling to outer space, but you take a modified Boeing 727 flight with parabolic arcs that produce that floaty flying feeling. It costs about $5000, with a jumpsuit, photos, video footage, merchandise and certificate of weightlessness thrown in for added value. If you want to bring some friends, colleagues or your entire wedding party along, you can charter a private flight for 36 people for just $165K.
2. Virgin Galactic
After years of anticipation, autumn of 2014 is when these commercial suborbital spaceflights are set to launch. The precise date has been a moving target as further tests and fine tuning are required, but all indications are that this operation will be hitting the stratosphere soon. Already over 580 people have signed up for a joy ride on the Spaceship Two out of New Mexico’s Spaceport America, among them Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio plus company founder Sir Richard Branson. A mere $250,000 and 3 days pre-flight training will get you a seat on this six passenger Astrobatic cabin that will take you 68 miles above the planet’s surface. When you reach 50,000 feet, the supersonic vessel will blast into space at 3 times the speed of sound. Then you can buckle out of your seat and experience a few glorious minutes of weightlessness – or extreme nausea as the case may be. Even still, it sounds like this would be a hard trip to top.
If that price is a little steep for you, a new NBC/Mark Burnett program called Space Race has been green-lighted where contestants will compete to win a trip on an upcoming Virgin Galactic space flight. Somebody’s got to win, why not you?