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Space Tourism: Do You Want To Go? (Apogee Books Space Series) by John Spencer
Review by Paul Haggerty
Apogee Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 1894959086
Date: 30 September, 2004 List Price $20.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Space Tourism: Do you want to go? is the new volume in Apogee Book's Space Series. John Spencer lays out the history of space tourism, and the path he believes the new industry will take over the next few decades.

The history of actual space tourism is really limited to a couple of rich men who have paid a small fortune to fly to the International Space Station aboard Russian rockets. It might not be a large number, but it's the elephant's nose in the tent door. Polls have shown a large amount of interest, although with the standard caveat "If it's affordable." And dozens of organizations around the world are building spaceships, researching new technology, or lobbying governments to change the laws so that private citizens will be allowed to travel on a day-to-day basis. The most notable company at present is Scaled Composites, which flew the White Knight/SpaceshipOne to the 100 Km edge-of-space line twice in two weeks, and captured the ten million dollar Ansari X-prize. This technology has now been licensed to Virgin Galactic, which has claimed that flights will be available to the general public as early as 2007.

But, while the number of actual tourists in space can be counted on one hand (with plenty of fingers left over), the events leading up to these cover decades. The author supplies an in-depth timeline starting in 1967 and covering all the major milestones up to the end of 2003.

Three primary areas form the meat of the book. The first focuses on whether or not the money, energy, and interest are available for the industry to succeed. Naturally, these are all answered in the affirmative. The vast majority of people polled say they'd love to go to space. The various firms now working on launch hardware all claim that affordable access to space is just around the corner (and they all plan to make a bundle on it), and the number of millionaires and billionaires that own luxury yachts worth in excess of $40 million dollars (more than the total research, development, and testing of SpaceshipOne), numbers in the hundreds. It's quite clear that the interest is there, but that there needs to be a plan of attack to bring the system into being.

This forms the second major portion of the book. The author is convinced that the best way to form space tourism is to base it on the luxury yacht/cruise ship model. While the aircraft industry goes for efficiency and speed, the cruise ships offer luxury and quality experiences, and of course yachts do the same for the very rich without them having to rub elbows with the common folk. In fact, two chapters (45 pages) of the book are dedicated to the design and specifications of the orbital space yacht Destiny, which was designed by the author as an example of a starter craft which could form the nucleus of larger vessels, eventually leading to hotels, cruise ships, casinos, resorts, etc.

The third and final section of the book is an in-depth discussion of how the orbital real-estate may be broken up functionally, and the various airships, spaceships, orbital tugs, transfer vehicles, facilities, and governmental craft that would ply, support, and administer them. All of these based on both the new cutting-edge technology now being developed, and the tried and true off-the-shelf boxes that will need to form the backbone of any reliable and cost-effective transportation system.

Space Tourism: Do you want to go? is both a fact-packed book, and a wistful vision of the authors imagination. The only major problem I have with his future timeline is that it predicts only 50 years before space tourism is measured in millions of people per year. With companies taking a decade to develop and market a single new design, I feel this might be a bit optimistic. But I really hope I?m wrong. Because, yes; I want to go.

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