But with the business of commercial space travel ramping up, you don’t have to spend your life preparing your mind and body to travel beyond Earth. As an increasing number of billionaires, celebrities and contest-winners have been rocketing out of the atmosphere, analysts believe the suborbital space tourism market could be worth $8 billion by 2030.
Not all companies getting into space tourism are transporting travelers on flight missions. There’s also Orbite, a company building what it says will be the first commercial equivalent of a NASA training center. The “Astronaut Training and Spaceflight Gateway Complex” is targeting a 2024 opening in a yet-to-be-disclosed U.S. location. In the meantime, the company has smaller programs up and running in Florida and France.
In 2019, after noticing a gap in the market for a company that would train private citizens to become commercial astronauts, Orbite co-founders Jason Andrews and Nicolas Gaume decided to step in to create a boot camp for space tourists. Orbite likens its services to pilot’s license courses for hobbyists.
“If you did go to space camp as a kid, you can now come back what may be many decades later and have the adult version,” said Andrews, who co-founded the aerospace company Spaceflight Industries.
Andrews and Gaume — a French tech entrepreneur who comes from a family of hoteliers — have tapped world-renowned industrial architect and designer Philippe Starck to design their complex. Beyond the training facilities, it will have luxury accommodations and fine dining. Down the line, the co-founders want to replicate the training center in other parts of the world.
“We really see this as a global business and a way to be that gateway for people to come and experience space,” Andrews said.
While Orbite’s mission is to train future astronauts, it will also appeal to people who would like to be space tourists but can’t afford a mission. At this time, civilian space travel costs hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of dollars (unless you win a contest).
“A lot of our clientele may not have the financial means to go to space, but they want to experience what it’s like to train to go to space,” Andrews said.
There aren’t estimates for stays at the complex yet, but we know it won’t be cheap. Until construction on the complex is completed, Orbite is offering three-day, two-night “Astronaut Orientation” courses that range from $15,000 to $30,000 (excluding transportation to the program).
Limited to groups of 10, Astronaut Orientation promises mental, emotional and physical training for civilian space travel.
“You walk away understanding what it means to go to space and also experiencing it physically,” Andrews said.
At their state-of-the-art space camp for adults, students can stay at a luxury hotel — either the Four Seasons Orlando or Gaume’s La Co(o)rniche in La Test-de-Buch in southwest France. Itineraries differ depending on the location of the orientation, but attendees can expect to study rocket science and modern spaceflight vehicles, taste food that astronauts eat, take virtual-reality space vehicle hangar tours and mission simulations, plus feel weightlessness from different parabolic flight experiences.
“We tried to bring the best of hospitality and space expertise into this promise Orbite could be the gateway to space for anybody interested to touch that amazing journey,” Gaume said.
Andrews said the adventure travel element of the astronaut orientation is another selling point for guests.
By putting yourself in intense, challenging and uncomfortable situations, “you come away not only with a life experience that will be impossible to replicate somewhere else, but you also come away learning more about yourself,” Andrews said.
Orbite astronaut orientations may be more accessible opportunities than joining the ranks of NASA or paying for a Space X ticket, but the cost is still out of reach to most people on the planet. Gaume and Andrews said they hope to eventually offer single-day experiences that cost hundreds of dollars at their future complex.
“It’s first and foremost an astronaut training facility, but we have experiences that really cater to every clientele and their economic needs,” Andrews said. “It’ll be a really nice destination vacation, but also a transformative experience.”