Forget the weekend in Venice; the next big travel destination may well be space. What was previously a dream to which only astronauts could aspire is on the verge of becoming a reality for ordinary people.
Since 2001, a fortunate few have been able to leave our planet and spend some time aboard the International Space Station (ISS). But due to the excessive cost (over 20 million dollars) and intense physical preparation, there have been only seven tourists in space to date.
Now, however, a new step forward is now changing the face of space tourism. Various projects are underway to send tourists towards the stars in coming years. Rather than travelling to the ISS, tourists would take a suborbital flight, i.e. a flight which follows the same trajectory as a satellite in orbit, but stays below the speed required to remain in orbit.
In 2007, Airbus Defence and Space unveiled its project for a suborbital aircraft, the Spaceplane, and began working on the design. That year, a full scale mock-up of the jet was exhibited at the Paris Air Show (Le Bourget).
In its real-life version, the Spaceplane will carry four travellers and a pilot, climbing to an altitude of over 100 km. Through large windows, passengers will be able to contemplate Earth from an entirely new vantage point, and experience the joys of weightlessness for a few minutes. After an hour and a half, the Spaceplane will return to its home base. In short – an unforgettable experience now accessible to a much wider public. So now you know: gondolas are out-of-date.