Philip J. Clarkson President and CEO of The Space Miles Corporation of America Ltd. analyzes in TravelDailyNews how space tourism is now a reality as well as the major players and the most ‘hot’ aspects of the space tourism industry.
TravelDailyNews: Is space tourism a reality or remains into the sphere of science fiction?
Philip J. Clarkson: Many may have considered the concept of Space Tourism to be solely within the realms of science fiction but the true story is significantly different. Space Tourism is on the threshold of becoming an every day reality. It is fair to say that when the concept was initially proposed it was viewed with equal amounts of enthusiasm and scepticism. But that was some years ago. Thanks to an ever growing group of adherents and some very wealthy, influential individuals, the technology has forged forward and, primarily in The US, the political climate has changed to promote the new industry. It is probably accurate to say that The US Commercialization of Space Act 2002 heralded the acceleration of interest, finance, and sheer determination amongst those dedicated to make it all happen. The exciting sentence to people like me, and I quote, was “Spaceflight may develop into a commercial airline style operation” says it all! This will open The Final frontier to all. Other countries however have been quick to follow on The US lead.
That having been said, the potential Space Tourist must recognize the considerable difference between sub-orbital and orbital spaceflight. In the short term, only sub-orbital flights could realistically be opened up to the commercial mass market place. In simple terms an orbital flight requires something in the order of eight times the propulsion power of a sub-orbital excursion; hence the rocketry alone is in a different order of magnitude.
Amongst other companies beginning to compete in the market place, it was the advent of Scaled Composites, controlled by Burt Rhutan creator of SpaceShipOne, which proved to the world that, with the development of new materials and technologies, more in alignment with the 21st century than existing modified 1960’s technology, that great strides of affordability can be achieved.
A sub-orbital flight will still take the paying passenger into space, will still allow the passenger to legally become an Astronaut, and will still give the participant that wondrous view of our planet and enable the observer to juxtapose earth with the real vastness of outer space. To some it may even be a religious experience. Roll on 2009, that’s when, all going well, the industry will launch itself.
TDN: How does the Space Miles card work and how will it benefit the future travelers?
P. C.: It is the very question of affordability that is addressed by The Space Miles Credit Card. There are two absolutes, A) Yes of course, initially a sub-orbital flight is bound to be expensive, figures of around $200,000 are bandied around, although in my opinion it will probably be a little less, even to begin with. B) The economics of scale are no less prevalent to the concept of Space Tourism than any other nascent activity. Fundamentally the more paying passengers/customers that exist, the cheaper it becomes.
Nevertheless it is never going to be cheap. Various pundits have suggested that after a period of consolidation the price could come down to as low as $20,000. In truth somewhere between $20/35,000 is probably where the industry will end up. Around the price of a middle-of-the-market automobile. For that, quite literally the trip of a lifetime.
Now to The Space Miles Credit Card. It is of course a savings scheme based upon the traditional Credit Card loyalty/cash-back business model. There are however some major departures.
The card will run parallel with a cardholders dedicated savings account which will have a tangible value and be redeemable against a whole variety of space related rewards, some minor, some more substantial, a number of which will be terrestrially based, and of course for the dedicated enthusiast, a real flight itself.
To enhance savings capability and customer ability to accumulate Space Miles we at Space Miles are working towards creating a major portal via spacemiles website whereby more Space Miles can be earned by ordering third party goods and services through the website and purchasing them with The Space Miles card. We will negotiate a discount with major suppliers of, for example, car hire companies, other travel/tour operators, hotel bookings, additionally maybe even chains of gas stations etc. The discounts that are achieved will be passed on to the Space Miles card account holder as additional Space Miles credits.
There will be a facility to aggregate Space Miles within a family for example. Mom, Dad Grandparents etc will be able to choose to aggregate their Space Miles to buy a birthday trip for nominated younger family members and so on.
Finally there will be an additional facility to trade existing miles/loyalty rewards into Space Miles via our ‘Milesmatch’ trading platform, under development at the moment. Quite simply; it has oft been reported that a vast number of sundry miles and loyalty points issued to and collected by customers worldwide are never encashed or liquidated.
We at Space Miles intend to provide our customers a platform to trade these sundry points into Space Miles. It is estimated that, in The UK alone some