Space really is the final frontier — for tourists at least.

If you’re forced to stifle yawns at the prospect of yet another visit to the all-inclusive Budget Paradise Cancun, wake up! In the next five years, according to delegates to this week’s National Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, outfits such as Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and XCOR Aerospace will routinely offer space flights of fancy.

While early space tourism is not exactly going where no one has gone before — it will feature the kind of sub-space trips flown by the Mercury pioneer astronauts in the ’60s — it’s still a far cry from Sandals. The view is to die for, and you get to experience weightlessness for five whole minutes. Bite me, gravity.

This is not science fiction: It’s going to happen. Virgin Galactic has already glide-tested the VSS Enterprise, and the six-passenger ship will undergo rocket-powered tests next year. Meanwhile, 450 people have put down $20,000 deposits on the $200,000 fare Virgin Galactic will charge when it finally gets off the ground. AXCOR’s two-seater Lynx will be a little cheaper: $95,000 for a round trip.

 

There’s no word how many frequent-flyer points will be required, but rumour has it they’ll start with a zillion and work up from there. Blackouts will be routine — and that’s once you’re on the flight. The entire experience will take only two and a half hours, but for space geeks the memories will last a lifetime … if they survive re-entry.

Virgin is even building a spaceport in the New Mexico desert, which is appropriate, considering that nearby Roswell is the world HQ for alien encounters.

The $209-million Spaceport America was christened a couple of days ago by Branson himself, who climbed down the side, quaffing champagne. Let’s get this party started.

For those of you who think it’s a waste of money and carbon and would rather go to Tuscany, I understand.

For $200K, you could spend the entire growing season in a luxury Tuscan villa, where it’s warmer and sunnier than space, where the average temperature is three degrees above absolute zero. Well, at least it’s not absolute zero.

The view in Tuscany is also pretty good, but on a clear day in space, you can see everywhere.

So far, I haven’t been able to convince my wife to deposit 20 grand on the VSS Enterprise. She’s up for a cruise but was thinking Alaska or the Caribbean.

I guess some people do not want to boldly go where no one has gone before, unless it has room service.

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