The thrill of experiencing space travel is within our grasp — and it's not only for the super-rich.
Perhaps within the next five to ten years, an average Joe could check off "experience space travel" from their bucket list, according to Tom Shelley, the president of Virginia-based company Space Adventures.
That's all due to a number of factors, including the increase in companies working on different ways to get people there, and recent breakthroughs in reusable rockets by companies like Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX.
Shelley knows a thing or two about private space travel: So far, Space Adventures is the only company to have launched a private citizen into space.
For $20 million, it launched businessman Dennis Tito up to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001, and has brought up six others in the years since. But will staying aboard the ISS — current rate: $50 million — ever become affordable? "If you're talking about living in space for ten days," said Shelley, "I doubt it."
Still, Space Adventures is working on it.
The biggest hurdle to bringing down cost is in the launch. Russian and US government-backed launches cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million to $400 million a pop. Meanwhile, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is around $60 million, but that would still keep passenger ticket prices high.
"It would require a fundamental change in launch technology" to bring the cost down, says Shelley, such as a reusable craft that takes off like a plane and flies into orbit. "It could be five years away, ten years away. 30 years away. I just don't know."
But if you want to get up to space for at least a few minutes, experience weightlessness, and see the beauty of the Earth 62 miles above its surface?
"Yeah, absolutely," Shelley said. "The suborbital world is bringing that within the bounds of affordability."
Space Adventures was working with Armadillo Aerospace on its own suborbital craft, but they ran into technical difficulties and have since parted ways.
Still, companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and XCOR are working on rocket-powered vehicles that could bring passengers to suborbital space, while others like World View and zero2infinity are testing balloon-powered flights to near-space.
The most affordable option is currently with World View for $75,000. But once these companies get past the testing phase and start operating on a regular basis, Shelley says, the cost is sure to become more affordable.
So just to be safe, start putting away about $140 a week for the next ten years — not counting interest — and that space selfie could be all yours.