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The Future of Space Tourism Is Now. Well, Not Quite.

From zero-pressure balloon trips to astronaut boot camps, reservations for getting off the planet — or pretending to — are skyrocketing. The prices, however, are still out of this world.

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By Debra Kamin

Ilida Alvarez has dreamed of traveling to space since she was a child. But Ms. Alvarez, a legal-mediation firm owner, is afraid of flying, and she isn’t a billionaire — two facts that she was sure, until just a few weeks ago, would keep her fantasy as out of reach as the stars. She was wrong.

Ms. Alvarez, 46, and her husband, Rafael Landestoy, recently booked a flight on a 10-person pressurized capsule that — attached to a massive helium-filled balloon — will gently float to 100,000 feet while passengers sip champagne and recline in ergonomic chairs. The reservation required a $500 deposit; the flight itself will cost $50,000 and last six to 12 hours.

“I feel like it was tailor-made for the chickens like me who don’t want to get on a rocket,” said Ms. Alvarez, whose flight, organized by a company called World View , is scheduled to depart from the Grand Canyon in 2024.

Less than a year after Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson kicked off a commercial space race by blasting into the upper atmosphere within weeks of each other last summer, the global space tourism market is skyrocketing, with dozens of companies now offering reservations for everything from zero-pressure balloon trips to astronaut boot camps and simulated zero-gravity flights. But don’t don your spacesuit just yet. While the financial services company UBS estimates the space travel market will be worth $3 billion by 2030, the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to approve most out-of-this-world trips, and construction has not started on the first space hotel. And while access and options — not to mention launchpads — are burgeoning, space tourism remains astronomically expensive for most.

First, what counts as space travel?

Sixty miles (about 100 kilometers) above our heads lies the Kármán line, the widely accepted aeronautical boundary of the earth’s atmosphere. It’s the boundary used by the Féderátion Aéronautique Internationale, which certifies and controls global astronautical records. But many organizations in the United States, including the F.A.A. and NASA, define everything above 50 miles to be space.

Much of the attention has been focused on a trio of billionaire-led rocket companies: Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin , whose passengers have included William Shatner; Mr. Branson’s Virgin Galactic , where tickets for a suborbital spaceflight start at $450,000; and Elon Musk’s SpaceX , which in September launched an all-civilian spaceflight, with no trained astronauts on board. Mr. Branson’s inaugural Virgin Galactic flight in 2021 reached about 53 miles, while Blue Origin flies above the 62-mile mark. Both are eclipsed by SpaceX, whose rockets charge far deeper in to the cosmos, reaching more than 120 miles above Earth.

Balloons, like those operated by World View, don’t go nearly as high. But even at their maximum altitude of 18 or 19 miles, operators say they float high enough to show travelers the curvature of the planet, and give them a chance to experience the overview effect — an intense perspective shift that many astronauts say kicks in when you view Earth from above.

Now, how to get there …

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, which are both licensed for passenger space travel by the F.A.A., are open for ticket sales. (Blue Origin remains mum on pricing.) Both companies currently have hundreds or even thousands of earthlings on their wait lists for a whirl to the edge of space. SpaceX charges tens of millions of dollars for its further-reaching flights and is building a new facility in Texas that is currently under F.A.A. review.

Craig Curran is a major space enthusiast — he’s held a reserved seat on a Virgin Galactic flight since 2011 — and the owner of Deprez Travel in Rochester, N.Y. The travel agency has a special space travel arm, Galactic Experiences by Deprez , through which Mr. Curran sells everything from rocket launch tickets to astronaut training.

Sales in the space tourism space, Mr. Curran acknowledges, “are reasonably difficult to make,” and mostly come from peer-to-peer networking. “You can imagine that people who spend $450,000 to go to space probably operate in circles that are not the same as yours and mine,” he said.

Some of Mr. Curran’s most popular offerings include flights where you can experience the same stomach-dropping feeling of zero gravity that astronauts feel in space, which he arranges for clients via chartered, specialized Boeing 727s that are flown in parabolic arcs to mimic being in space. Operators including Zero G also offer the service; the cost is around $8,200.

You can almost count the number of completed space tourist launches on one hand — Blue Origin has had four; SpaceX, two. Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, on Thursday announced the launch of its commercial passenger service, previously scheduled for late 2022, was delayed until early 2023. Many of those on waiting lists are biding their time before blastoff by signing up for training. Axiom Space, which contracts with SpaceX, currently offers NASA-partnered training at Houston’s Johnson Space Center. Virgin Galactic, which already offers a “customized Future Astronaut Readiness program” at its Spaceport America facility in New Mexico, is also partnering with NASA to build a training program for private astronauts.

Would-be space tourists should not expect the rigor that NASA astronauts face. Training for Virgin Galactic’s three-hour trips is included in the cost of a ticket and lasts a handful of days; it includes pilot briefings and being “fitted for your bespoke Under Armour spacesuit and boots,” according to its website.

Not ready for a rocket? Balloon rides offer a less hair-raising celestial experience.

“We go to space at 12 miles an hour, which means that it’s very smooth and very gentle. You’re not rocketing away from earth,” said Jane Poynter, a co-founder and co-chief executive of Space Perspective , which is readying its own touristic balloon spaceship, Spaceship Neptune. If all goes according to plan, voyages are scheduled to begin departing from Florida in 2024, at a cost of $125,000 per person. That’s a fraction of the price tag for Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, but still more than double the average annual salary of an American worker.

Neither Space Perspective nor World View has the required approval yet from the F.A.A. to operate flights.

Unique implications

Whether a capsule or a rocket is your transport, the travel insurance company battleface launched a civilian space insurance plan in late 2021, a direct response, said chief executive Sasha Gainullin, to an increase in space tourism interest and infrastructure. Benefits include accidental death and permanent disablement in space and are valid for spaceflights on operators like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, as well as on stratospheric balloon rides. They’ve had many inquiries, Mr. Gainullin said, but no purchases just yet.

“Right now it’s such high-net-worth individuals who are traveling to space, so they probably don’t need insurance,” he said. “But for quote-unquote regular travelers, I think we’ll see some takeups soon.”

And as the industry grows, so perhaps will space travel’s impact on the environment. Not only do rocket launches have immense carbon footprints, even some stratospheric balloon flights have potentially significant implications: World View’s balloons are powered by thousands of cubic meters of helium, which is a limited resource . But Ted Parson, a professor of environmental law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that space travel’s environmental impact is still dwarfed by civil aviation. And because space travel is ultra-niche, he believes it’s likely to stay that way.

“Despite extensive projections, space tourism is likely to remain a tiny fraction of commercial space exploration,” he said. “It reminds me of tourism on Mt. Everest. It’s the indulgence of very rich people seeking a transcendent, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and the local environmental burden is intense.”

Stay a while?

In the future, space enthusiasts insist, travelers won’t be traveling to space just for the ride. They’ll want to stay a while. Orbital Assembly Corporation, a manufacturing company whose goal is to colonize space, is currently building the world’s first space hotels — two ring-shaped properties that will orbit Earth, called Pioneer Station and Voyager Station. The company, quite optimistically, projects an opening date of 2025 for Pioneer Station, with a capacity of 28 guests. The design for the larger Voyager Station , which they say will open in 2027, promises villas and suites, as well as a gym, restaurant and bar. Both provide the ultimate luxury: simulated gravity. Axiom Space , a space infrastructure company, is currently building the world’s first private space station; plans include Philippe Starck-designed accommodations for travelers to spend the night.

Joshua Bush, chief executive of travel agency Avenue Two Travel , has sold a handful of seats on upcoming Virgin Galactic flights to customers. The market for space travel (and the sky-high prices that come with it), he believes, will evolve much like civilian air travel did.

“In the beginning of the 20th century, only very affluent people could afford to fly,” he said. “Just as we have Spirit and Southwest Airlines today, there will be some sort of equivalent of that in space travel, too. Hopefully within my lifetime.”

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KS3 Space unit topic revision booklet

KS3 Space unit topic revision booklet

Subject: Physics

Age range: 11-14

Resource type: Worksheet/Activity


Last updated

20 February 2020

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docx, 1.64 MB

A revision booklet to support the delivery of the KS3 Space topic. Each page is designed to support a lesson of work. Great to help support a non-specialist teacher or for helping students prepare for low stakes testing mid-topic or end of topic assessment. Each lesson of revision is supported by tiered questions (with mark scheme) to allow students to apply their revision.

In my teaching I set these as homework tasks to help students prepare for mid-topic AFL lessons and then they use the whole booklet, with questions and mark scheme to help prepare for the end of topic test. I have included these homework pages.

The AFL booklet, which includes tiered questions for every lesson and then stretch or support questions for the mini topic, along with accompanying mark scheme, is available to purchase.

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Travel and Tourism - 0471 / 22 Paper 2 - Alternative to Coursework Mark Scheme - October / November 2022 IGCSE - Cambridge International Examination

UK election latest: Starmer makes 'hugely important' visit to Scotland as he kicks off first tour of UK

New PM Keir Starmer is embarking on a "reset" tour of the UK, as he seeks to improve the UK government's relations with the devolved administrations.

Monday 8 July 2024 06:52, UK

  • General Election 2024

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  • Starmer kicks off UK tour in Edinburgh
  • PM holds first meeting with Scottish first minister
  • New Northern Ireland secretary rules out border poll
  • Home secretary launches search for border security commander
  • Senior Tories 'likely putting teams together' for leadership bids
  • Analysis: Could Tories take their time to pick new leader?
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker

Election fallout

  • Starmer's challenges: Tackling exhausted NHS | Looming chaos abroad | Defence to dominate early days | Small boats plan? | Rift with scientists needs healing
  • Listen: Politics At Jack And Sam's - what's in Starmer's in-tray?
  • Results in every constituency

Good morning!

Welcome back to the Politics Hub for the first full week of the new Labour government.

Here's what's coming up today:

  • Sir Keir Starmer is continuing his tour of the UK, starting in Northern Ireland, followed by Wales;
  • Chancellor Rachel Reeves will be giving her first major speech since taking office, and is expected to announce swift changes to unblock infrastructure and private investment;
  • The broader Starmer administration is taking action on the economy, health and education today;
  • Health Secretary Wes Streeting is set to meet with the British Dentist Association to discuss Labour's campaign promise to deliver 700,000 urgent appointments;
  • Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson is writing to those in the education workforce to highlight their importance to the new government;
  • Meanwhile, the record number of new MPs will be flooding to Westminster to set up their offices before being sworn in tomorrow;
  • The Conservative Party is working out how to proceed after the devastating election defeat, with the party's board due to meet today to discuss the impending leadership contest.

We'll be discussing all of that and more with:

  • Darren Jones , chief secretary to the Treasury, at 7.15am ;
  • Kevin Hollinrake , Tory MP and former minister, at 8.15am .

Follow along for the latest political news.

That's all for tonight from the Politics Hub.

We'll be back tomorrow for Labour's first full week in power.

Before you go, here were today's main stories:

Sir Keir Starmer has met with Scotland's first minister, John Swinney.

Speaking to broadcasters afterwards, both men were asked if Scottish independence had come up in the talks.

After losing the vast majority of their seats last week, the SNP are arguing the Holyrood results in 2021 still give them a mandate to work towards leaving the UK.

Sir Keir - whose party grew sizeably in Scotland - has said he is targeting the next Holyrood election in 2026 to win even more of a mandate.

On the talks today, Sir Keir said he would not go into details of what was discussed - but said that the two "can work constructively together".

He added that he has made a commitment to deliver for Scotland, and that he plans to make good on it.

Sir Keir added that he took the opportunity to "reset relations" with the first and deputy first ministers.

He conceded there were "clearly differences of opinion" between them on constitutional matters, but the meeting was still constructive.

Mr Swinney said he "very much welcomed" the engagement and was committed to improving the relationship between the Scottish and UK administrations.

He said the SNP made clear they have "different views" on the constitution - but also that the SNP is taking time "to reflect and consider" the issues posed by the election.

They lost 39 of their 48 seats on Thursday.

Mr Swinney said the party intends to focus on issues like economic growth, child poverty, public services and net zero ahead of securing independence. 

By Tim Baker , political reporter

The government is to divert tens of millions of pounds from the Rwanda scheme to set up a new Border Security Command (BSC), as it announces its plans to tackle illegal migration.

Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has also announced an audit of the monies sent to Kigali as the Labour administration looks to find ways to save or recoup cash committed under the Conservatives.

Ms Cooper plans to raise the issue of illegal migration with her European colleagues at the European Political Community Summit on 18 July.

Before the general election, Sir Keir Starmer said his party wanted to send around £75m a year to their new border scheme, from the scrapped Rwanda deportation programme.

The prime minister described the Conservative-era plans to send asylum seekers to Africa as "dead and buried" earlier this weekend.

However, it is understood Labour has not reached out to Kigali to discuss the way forward, as the previous UK government promised hundreds of millions of pounds for migrants to be sent to Rwanda.

Read more below:

Defence Secretary John Healey has already met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with the Labour government making a new pledge on sending arms to Ukraine.

Mr Healey also promised that the equipment Rishi Sunak announced in April will be delivered within the first 100 days of the new government.

He said: "Our commitment to stand with the Ukrainian people is absolute, as is our resolve to confront Russian aggression and pursue Putin for his war crimes.

"This government is steadfast in our commitment to continue supplying military assistance and will stand shoulder to shoulder with our Ukrainian friends for as long as it takes."

The newly promised package of aid includes: 

  • A quarter of a million of 50 calibre ammunition;
  • 90 anti-armour Brimstone missiles;
  • 50 small military boats to support river and coastal operations;
  • 40 de-mining vehicles;
  • 10 AS-90 artillery guns;
  •  61 bulldozers to help build defensive positions;
  • Support for previously gifted AS-90s.

The new home secretary has wasted little time in getting started in her role - launching the promised Border Security Command (BSC) just days after her appointment. 

The BSC was one of the cornerstones of Sir Keir Starmer's manifesto - Labour's solution to the small boats crisis.

The set-up is being at least partly funded by diverting £75m from the now cancelled Rwanda scheme. 

Yvette Cooper has set out the first steps for establishing the BSC, which promises to "strengthen Britain's borders security and smash the criminal smuggling gangs making millions out of small boat crossings".

The plan includes the rapid recruitment of an "exceptional leader", which begins tomorrow. 

'We can't carry on like this'

The new recruit, who is expected to take up their post in the coming weeks, will report directly to the office of the home secretary. 

They will be tasked with providing a "strategic direction" across agencies, including the National Crime Agency, police, immigration enforcement, and the Border Force.

Ms Cooper is also preparing early legislation which will introduce new counter-terror style powers for the BSC, and has commissioned an investigation into the routes and tactics used by smuggling gangs.

She said it would be a "major step change" in the UK's efforts to tackle organised immigration crime, working "across Europe" and co-ordinating with prosecutors on the continent.

"We can't carry on like this," she said, adding the BSC will act as a "major upgrade" on the immigration system Labour have inherited. 

Sunday might be a day of rest for many of us, but for prime ministers and political journalists there's no such thing.

Sir Keir Starmer has had a busy day, kicking off a tour of the UK, and there's been plenty else keeping us busy.

Here are the main things you need to know from today:

  • Sir Keir Starmer has headed to Edinburgh for the start of a UK tour, where he'll meet with First Minister John Swinney;
  • Speaking to Scottish Labour supporters beforehand, he promised to "serve every single person in Scotland" no matter who they voted for;
  • The PM hopes his visits to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will signal a "reset in relations" between Westminster and the devolved administrations;
  • It comes after Labour enjoyed a revival in Scotland to become the largest party north of the border, and kept that status in Wales too.
  • New government ministers are settling into their roles and were quick to rule out introducing ID cards to tackle illegal immigration this morning;
  • Labour's top team distanced themselves from the suggestion made by former party leader and prime minister Sir Tony Blair ;
  • The new Northern Ireland secretary, Hilary Benn, also denied there was a case for a border poll on the island of Ireland after Sinn Fein became the largest Northern Irish party at Westminster.
  • Meanwhile, the Tory leadership race may well be under way after several former ministers refused to rule themselves out;
  • Robert Jenrick and Suella Braverman were among those on the media round this morning who indicated they could be up for replacing Rishi Sunak;
  • But our political correspondent Darren McCaffrey says there are some in the party who want them to take their time before deciding, rather than rushing towards a right-wing candidate looking to stave off the threat from Reform UK.

You can also get the lowdown on the new prime minister's first few days from our Politics At Jack And Sam's podcast below:

Sir Keir Starmer has just spoken alongside the Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who introduced the new PM to a rapturous applause of party supporters in Edinburgh.

After a long intro from his Scottish colleague, Sir Keir says it's "hugely important" for him to visit the devolved nations as soon as possible. 

"That was an incredible election result, a historic result and a real mandate for change - we start here," he says. 

He says there's nothing "inevitable" about an election win, adding "we won because we campaigned as changed Labour". 

"We [will] govern in the same spirit… we will serve the entirety of Scotland, we will serve every single person in Scotland because that change matters to everyone."

Our political correspondent  Amanda Akass   says the speech was a reminder of the unique opportunity Sir Keir has to unite the UK's devolved administrations.

Scottish Labour "really rose out of the ashes of their previous defeats" in this week's general election, she says, going from one MP to 37.

The PM wants those new MPs "to be a big part of the government in Westminster to deliver for the people of Scotland as part of that mandate for change".

He'll also be meeting First Minister John Swinney, as part of what he hopes will be a "reset" in relations between Westminster and Holyrood.

Sir Keir Starmer is giving a speech following a meeting with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in Edinburgh this afternoon.

It comes at the start of the PM's first UK tour - once he's finished north of the border he'll be going to Wales and Northern Ireland.

His Scotland visit will also include a meeting with John Swinney, the first minister and SNP leader.

You can watch his speech in the stream above.

The prime minister has welcomed comments made by the Irish Taoiseach during an interview with Sky News. 

You can see Simon Harris and Sir Keir Starmer's interaction in the embedded X post below… 

It comes after Mr Harris promised he and fellow EU leaders would give the new prime minister a "fair hearing" when it comes to possible changes to the post-Brexit trade deal.

Sir Keir has repeatedly described it as "botched" and said during the election campaign he'd look to improve it - but with no return to the single market, customs union, or freedom of movement.

You can read Ireland correspondent  Stephen Murphy 's full interview with Mr Harris here . 

Be the first to get Breaking News

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