Space Tourism Is Here! Wealthy Adventurers Wanted
WEDGED between a strip-mall chiropractor and a cluster of optometrists in Rochester, N.Y., the offices of the DePrez Group of Travel Companies hardly seems like the kind of place where someone would begin a journey to the stars.
But Craig Curran, the company’s president, says that’s exactly where he can take you — provided, of course, that you have a spare $200,000 lying around. Mr. Curran, you see, is a so-called “accredited space agent” for Virgin Galactic, an outfit founded by the multitasking mogul Richard Branson that is promising to take hundreds of high rollers some 60 miles up in a futuristic craft known as the SpaceShipTwo. And while the flight lasts only two hours or so, with a mere five minutes spent coasting in weightlessness, the bragging rights will go on forever.
“If you could say my family came over on the Niña, the Pinta or the Santa Maria, this is the equivalent,” said Mr. Curran, wearing a black Virgin Galactic T-shirt and an enthusiastic smile. “You are part of the birth of an industry.”
Virgin Galactic may be aloft as soon as next year, just one among a handful of companies competing to take amateur astronauts to the upper reaches of the atmosphere — and beyond. In what may be the final frontier in extreme tourism, these outfits are offering experiences that range from a few moments of weightless wonder (most for six figures), to weeks-long Apollo mission-style adventures (for, gulp, nine). Forget climbing Everest, trekking to the South Pole or canoeing up the Amazon: How about taking a trip to the far side of the moon?