By Cristina Hodgson • 30 January 2020 • 11:55
Space explorers: we have lift-off!
Ever since Californian businessman Dennis Tito paid Russia $20m to blast into orbit in 2001, wealthy thrillseekers have dreamt of hitching a ride to the great beyond. The wait may be getting shorter. And recreational human space travel from Spain’s Andalusia is on the horizon with space travel to be offered as of next year thanks to Zero 2 Infinity.
From Andalusia to Space, a Spanish company has launched its own Space tourism enterprise and will launch its stratosphere travel program in 2021.
Zero 2 Infinity proposes simplifying Access to Space as the company promotes on their website:
We are building a brighter future in which access to Space is frequent, affordable, secure and reliable for everyone.
From the public to the gurus of aerospace, most people still think that Space will remain the realm of a few superpowers, large defence contractors and the odd billionaire…
… but we won’t settle for that. At Zero 2 Infinity we chose to carry the burden of proof that there is indeed a better way, one that allows you to realize your dreams in Space.
This kind of space travel will be made possible by three projected launch bases across the globe. One will be in Neom in Saudi Arabia, another in Baja California in Mexico and the third in Jaén, Spain.
The Spanish base, in Jaén, makes it clear that it intends to offer a more “modest” experience that will simultaneously be more environmentally friendly. Rather than a rocket, passengers will travel in a pressurised cabin or pod, propelled by a balloon fuelled by helium gas, and it will remain in “Near Space” which is higher than planes fly but below the altitude of satellites. The advantage of Zero 2 Infinity’s excursions is that there is no carbon footprint.
The other advantage of these flights is that no preparation or astronaut gear is necessary.
The technology for Zero 2 Infinity’s tourist space program has been developed by the company’s founder and CEO, José Mariano López-Urdiales, an aerospace engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
At present, trips can only be booked directly with the company, though it is expected that soon bookings will be made available through travel agencies specializing in adventure tourism.
Cost aside, a space trip is not to everyone’s taste, while Zero 2 Infinity’s excursions sound “milder and safer” than other space flights. The dangers are real, as are the discomforts.
Some of the space flights offered by other companies will take passengers into suborbital space: high enough to cross the lower boundary of space and get an experience of weightlessness. But as costs fall, the industry will get off the ground and it’s expected that by 2030 space tourism could be worth as much as $3bn a year.
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