Russia Wants to Send Tourists to the ISS For Space Walks

Thursday, 01 February 2018 - 7:18PM
Thursday, 01 February 2018 - 7:18PM
Russia Wants to Send Tourists to the ISS For Space Walks
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Space tourism is very nearly finally upon us as a legitimate, regular business venture.

While Elon Musk storms ahead with plans for SpaceX's tourism endeavors, and Richard Branson continues to promise that Virgin Galactic will host pop star performances in space, Russia is getting in on the act with perhaps the most tantalizing offer of all: a chance to stroll (well, float) around in the International Space Station (ISS), followed by a space walk out on the station's hull.

Basically, if the opening scene from Gravity made you want to vomit, this is not for you, but if the closest you've been able to get thus far is a VR experience, then you might want to consider finding someway to fund a trip. Not that this will be an easy vacation to budget for - according to Vladimir Solntsev, the head of Russian space company Energia, a ten day trip is likely to cost around $100 million.

Sadly, this experience probably won't get a Groupon any time soon, although the first tourist that proves foolhardy enough to play human guinea pig for this highly untested vacation format may receive a discount for their troubles.

But Energia comes to the space tourism game with a lot more experience than SpaceX. All the way back in 1961, the company was responsible for putting Yuri Gagarin into space, making him the first human being to leave the confines of our planet's gravity. Energia is also now building a brand new luxury module for the ISS that will be added to give tourists the most comfortable experience possible.

Moving forward, it looks like Energia may end up partnering with other interested space travel companies in order to produce more appropriate vehicles that are designed with passenger needs in mind. Boeing has apparently already expressed an interest in teaming up with the company in order to provide a state of the art tour bus that can blast off out of the planet's atmosphere.

According to Solntsev, the service, which is supposed to launch in 2019, will be "comfortable, as much as that is possible in space". In practice, this means that the rocket ship that will take tourists to the ISS will have squishy seats, two working bathrooms (in anticipation of a lot of vomit), and, crucially, internet access. Look forward to rich people posting on Instagram while in outer space, smugly making a big deal out of the best space adventure that their money can buy.

While for the most part the space tourism racket has been cornered by Western companies, Russia has been running specialized missions for wealthy tourists for a while now. For example, Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, made a trip to the ISS courtesy of Energia all the way back in 2009.

Now, though, instead of tourist missions being a rare occurance, Russia is hoping to offer as many as ten trips a year, allowing the world's wealthy elite the chance to literally stand above the world and marvel at its glory.

As for the rest of us, with any luck it's only a matter of time before the experience gets cheaper - just don't expect much legroom if and when you can finally afford a trip into space.