Several billionaires and their hard-charging rocket companies say the tiny roster of humans — 573, by the count of space expert Jonathan McDowell — who have flown to space is about to get much longer. They promise that more Average Joes can have experiences long relegated to highly trained astronauts.
But the galactically curious should take heed: Space travel will probably remain prohibitively expensive for anyone outside the 1% for a long, long time.
On the cheapest end of the spectrum is Virgin Galactic. The company set up by Richard Branson plans to offer 90-minute flights into the upper atmosphere for about $200,000 to $250,000 each. That’s roughly the median home price in the United States.
Some analysts are confident space tourism flights will become less expensive. The price of most technologies, from commercial aircraft to television sets, drastically declines over time.
“The price point is high, but that’s just like any other early adopter,” Ann Kim, managing director of frontier tech at Silicon Valley Bank. “It will come down.”
But by Virgin Galactic’s own metrics, people are willing to spend up to 1.5% of their net worth on a single discretionary expense. That means, even if Virgin Galactic manages to cut ticket prices by 90%, its target customer would still need to be worth $1 million to $2 million.
The far-out future
Space vacations may remain out-of-reach for most of us in the foreseeable future, but many space enthusiasts insist that one day humans will be zipping around the solar system to work on other planets or orbiting habitats.
Today, the most well-known space visionaries are three billionaires: Branson, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Blue Origin/Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. They’ve gained die-hard fans, as well as critics who question how equitable the future of space travel would be if it is built by the world’s most affluent people.
READ MORE HERE