Not Just for Billionaires and Lance Bass Anymore — The Era of Space Tourism About to Begin??

This Wednesday Boeing announced that it will help the non-astronaut community boldly go where few men have gone before… No, not a Lilith Fair concert… outer space. Not to explore strange new worlds, or to seek out new life and new civilizations, but to tap into the apparently under-served market for space tourism by taking visitors to low Earth orbit (LEO).

Over the past few years, NASA and federal government leaders have been looking for new ways to leverage private industry to help support and potentially allow for the expansion of our country’s space missions, as well as to promote space commerce. Boeing is one of several private companies that have been working to fill the void left by the retirement of the space shuttle fleet next year and transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Its CST-100 spacecraft, being developed with support from NASA, could begin ferrying crews as early as 2015.

The CST-100 will hold up to seven passengers—several more seats per trip than NASA is projected to need. And it sure would be a shame to let them go to waste, so…

“The Boeing Company and Space Adventures, Ltd. have established a memorandum of agreement regarding the marketing of anticipated transportation services to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO) on Boeing commercial crew spacecraft.

Under this agreement, Space Adventures will market passenger seats on commercial flights aboard the Boeing Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100) spacecraft to LEO. Potential customers for excess seating capacity include private individuals, companies, non-governmental organizations, and U.S. federal agencies other than NASA. Boeing plans to use the CST-100 to provide crew transportation to the International Space Station (ISS) and future commercial LEO platforms.” [emphasis added]

Of course, once there are more seats available for folks to get to space, they’re going to need some new places to go. The International Space Station has limited capacity, and there are governments and companies out there interested in more research space. Plus, let’s not forget about long-standing, science fiction dreams of space hotels and vacations on the moon.

We’ve talked about the need for diversification within our core economic clusters before. For aerospace, we’ve highlighted exciting opportunities related UAVs (unmanned aerials vehicles) and other cutting edge defense work, but we shouldn’t forget that some of our state’s 600 aerospace companies – like Andrews Space –already work on space applications. Ultimately this is a reminder that we might be at the beginning of a growing cluster opportunity for all of our aerospace companies.

By the way, we should mention that we here at the Prosperity Blog have been on the space tourism bandwagon since our earliest posts. Just one more example of the incredible insights you get here on a daily basis!

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