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Space tourism

Space tourism is the recent phenomenon of space travel by individuals for the purpose of personal pleasure. At the moment, space tourism is only open to exceptionally wealthy individuals, with the Russian space program providing transport.

Whilst it is argued that John Glenn was essentially a tourist on his 1997 Shuttle flight, the first fee-paying space tourist was Dennis Tito, who visited the International Space Station in 2001. He was followed by South African Mark Shuttleworth. More individuals are keen to make the trip, such as boy band singer Lance Bass.

The U.S. company Space Adventures[?] has an agreement with the Russian Space Agency[?] for a dedicated commercial flight to the International Space Station. The price for a trip on the Soyuz rocket is $20 million, and a launch date of 2005 is planned.

More affordable space tourism is viewed as a money-making proposition by several startup companies, many of whom are competing for the X-Prize. Most are proposing vehicles which would make a suborbital flight of around 90 minutes, peaking at around 150 kilometres or so of altitude and giving the passengers several minutes of weightlessness, the view of a twinkle-free starfield and the curved Earth below. Projected costs are expected to be in the range of 100,000 USD per passenger. Some companies are hoping to launch before 2005.

Space tourism is a common theme in science fiction, with at least some of the speculation tending towards the distinctly adults-only possibilities of weightlessness.

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