Space Tourism: Reality versus Imagination
Now the race for the X-Prize is over the race to built the first passenger spaceport is one. One company has analysed where it expects most of its customers to come from and is planning to build their first spaceport in the Emirates. As far as I know that’s the first example of the USA supporting the capacity for long-range rocketry by a Middle Eastern state.
More interesting are two other proposed locations. Richard Branson has searched for a site which he thinks will project the image of pioneering space travel. He’s chosen Roswell. I’m not sure that this is a good idea. If you board a Virgin Galactic flight in Roswell how do you know you’re flying to space? Might it not all be a simulator created with alien technology to ensure humanity remains rooted to Earth? Richard Branson also has a headache with his vehicles. The spacecraft of other companies are resuable, but obviously you can only board a Virgin Galactic spacecraft once.
The most interesting spaceport might be Woomera. Astronaut Dr Andy Thomas has suggested that a redevelopment of Woomera could make it a prime site for a spaceport. As Alice Gorman points out for a while Woomera was the second busiest spaceport in the world, after Cape Canaveral. Since then it has fallen into disuse. It’s therefore probably the only historic spaceport which flight operators can use, unless NASA is serious about installing a taxi rank at Cape Canaveral. Woomera therefore could be somewhere unique which connects the past and the future.
If the people paying a hundred thousand dollars to fly are UFOlogists, Branson looks to have cornered the market. If the passengers are millionaires looking to capture a spirit of adventure then the Australian option looks competitive.