Space Tourism: Reality versus Imagination

Aliens! Photo by Inkynobaka.

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.

You can read the press release Spaceport good for Woomera’s her­it­age on Space Age Archaeology.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.