In 1968 the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote the classic 2001 and predicted mankind would be happily living in space.
For a visionary rarely wide of the mark, this proved to be a spectacular miscalculation.
It’s the second decade of the 21st century and most of us are very much on terra firma.
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But that’s about to change.
Entrepreneurs are starting to look at space travel as the next level of adrenaline vacation — albeit for the very well-off — and if all goes to plan, the first real space tourists could be in orbit by the end of the year.
Jeff Greason, the CEO of space firm XCOR said: “Our mission is to radically lower the cost of spaceflight,” and he’s serious.
It’s a small(ish) market but here are the best options:
What: Spaceship 2, ultra-light carbon composite craft carrying six passengers and two pilots.
Journey: Take off from Spaceport, a purpose-built site in New Mexico, climb to 50,000 feet using conventional power before splitting from the mother ship and heading for space at a rocket-propelled 2,500 mph. Experience zero gravity and stunning views of the Earth and space before heading back in a day.
What: The Lynx suborbital vehicle
Journey: California-based firm says the plane will use liquid fuel rocket engines to hit twice the speed of sound and 200,000 feet before gliding back to earth and landing on a runway 30 minutes later.
The Lynx could make this trip up to four times per day.
What: Genesis 2. Neither a rocket or a space vehicle, but an inflatable space station. The Genesis 2 and it’s predecessor Genesis 1 were launched on the top of cold war ballistic missiles and are still orbiting as low level space stations.
Journey: Nevada- based entrepreneur Robert Bigelow hopes the pods will be used both as floating hotels and laboratories for serious scientific research for nations not involved with the International Space Station.
Cost: $14.9 million.