Space Trippers

Did the first paying guests aboard the international space station get their $20 million worth?

The first three paying astronauts (left to right, Greg Olsen, Mark Shuttleworth, and Dennis Tito) found that comfort was not guaranteed with their tickets. Enduring the rigors of spaceflight that professionals do was yet another price to pay. (NASA)
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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).

Space is not yet open to the ocean cruise crowd, which is why people like Olsen and Shuttleworth chose to go. When reaching orbit is considered cheap and easy, look for over-achievers like them to be camping on Mars.

About Craig Mellow

Craig Mellow, a freelance journalist who lives in Savannah, Georgia, has written for Air & Space from Russia, Western Europe, and the United States.

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