Did the first paying guests aboard the international space station get their $20 million worth?
- By Craig Mellow
- Air & Space magazine, November 2006
(Page 7 of 8)
And after it was all over? Both space tourists alighted on terra firma unemployed but mildly famous: “It’s hard to say whether it’s the experience that changes you or the way people treat you afterward,” Shuttleworth observes.
They both say they would go up again, though not to repeat the same mission. The pair naturally turned to proselytizing for space and science education. Shuttleworth pursued this mission with more fervor and single-mindedness, touring schools and addressing as many as 1,000 students at a time.
He made a name for himself as “the first African in space,” but also gained “a real appreciation of the downside of the rock star’s life.”
Burn-out happily brought Shuttleworth back to his first love, software, and he is currently absorbed in gestating Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system.
“I’d love to fly again, but I think I’ve stretched the Russian Space Agency for everything it has to offer,” he says.
Greg Olsen has visited more than 150 U.S. schools and colleges in the year since his ISS mission. But the pace still leaves him plenty of time to commune with his coffee and newspaper at the Starbucks on Nassau Street, or stare out the window at the university campus “figuring out what to do with the rest of my life.”
In the meantime, the nascent space tourism industry Shuttleworth and Olsen helped kickstart is moving forward—at least for those with tens of millions in disposable income.
And the $20 million price tag is not likely to drop any time soon, according to Space Adventures, the Virginia-based company that acts as a travel agent for these trips. Company spokeswoman Stacey Tearne says that the price, determined primarily by the Russian Space Agency, will more than likely increase as more people sign up to go (see “Waiting Their Turns,” p. 48).