ESA embraces space tourism

Who's ready for a spacewalk? Tourists looking for a space adventure will soon have a few European companies from which to choose future flights.
By | Published: July 27, 2006 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
July 27, 2006
It’s no longer surprising to find tourists in space. Since Russia hosted space tourist and Japanese reporter Toyohiro Akiyama aboard the Mir Space Station in 1990, several more space enthusiasts have followed. In 2001, American businessman and former JPL scientist Dennis Tito became the first non-astronaut to visit the International Space Station. Now, it’s the European Space Agency’s (ESA) turn to support sending tourists into space.
Soyuz launch
ESA’s Soyuz launch vehicle sits on the launch pad waiting for the green light for liftoff. Space tourists could one day begin their forays into space on such a vehicle.
On July 21, ESA announced its intention to work with up to three private businesses to craft plans for space ventures. The announcement is part of its “Survey of European Privately-funded Vehicles for Commercial Human Spaceflight” initiative. As part of this initiative, European companies involved in space tourism are encouraged to submit their plans to the agency. Members of ESA’s General Studies Program will select three proposals from the submissions. Each of the three companies will receive about $188,600 (150,000 Euro) to proceed with its vision for space tourism.

Experts with ESA’s Launchers Directorate will assist the selected companies with their space aspirations. The team will review spacecraft designs and assess each mission’s technical soundness. Part of this assessment will include determining parameters for space tourists — time spent in weightlessness, physical-ability requirements, and what training tourists will need to prepare them for a space adventure.

If you’re one of the few who plan a future venture into space on a celestial vacation, be prepared to spend big money. Akiyama’s visit to Mir cost $28 million.