Space tourism will become more affordable, says ex-NASA pilot and Oblivion consultant Rick Searfoss
Space tourism is soon to be a booming business. Virgin Galactic is perhaps the most globally known company that allows consumers to buy a flight into space, but there are others offering similar packages, often at far lower prices.
Ex-NASA pilot Rick Searfoss, who acted as consultant on the Tom Cruise science fiction film Oblivion - out now on Blu-ray and DVD - is also chief test pilot for XCOR Aerospace, an American firm offering flights on its Lynx Suborbital Spacecraft for $95,000 a pop.
This is considerably lower than the estimated quarter of a million dollars Virgin Galactic is now charging, and Searfoss explained to Pocket-lint that it could come down even more over time, to something more affordable to the general public.
"As capabilities develop and we're able to do higher flight rates, and like any other kind of market we get more competitors in it, prices will come down," he said.
"And let me just say - I can't speak for Virgin at all - but with XCOR, at $95,000, there are very significant margins for us. That's well above break even. So I do think that prices will come down and the model I compare it to is the very extreme high adventure opportunities out there today. For people to do things like climb Mount Everest or something. That costs roughly, depending on which outfit you go with, $75,000.
"It's a fair chunk of change, but for someone where it has always been their dream, it's doable."
It may take a while for the cost to lower, as the first passenger flight will not be possible until next year at least.
"The design for Lynx is complete, it's frozen, and we're moving forward into production. It's not quite ready yet, but hopefully by this time next year we'll be into flight test and then getting to the point where it's actually a reality," Searfoss told us.
It will be worth the wait though as the colonel who piloted three space missions on the Space Shuttle describes the feeling of being up there as "unbelievably, truly awesome".
"Awesome is a very overused phrase, it gets almost trite. But in every sense of the word, it is overwhelming, awe-inspiring and... awesome to just be there," he said.
"Most of the time you are just focusing on getting the job done and not screwing up, but every once in a while you just stop and think, 'Man, I am in space.' It's incredible.
"My first commander would just every once in a while burst out in spontaneous fits of laughter."
But Space Shuttle and Lynx Suborbital Spacecraft aside, there's one spacecraft that Searfoss would most like to get to fly: the Bubble Ship from Oblivion.
"That is an amazing flying vehicle," he explained.
"As a test pilot I'd say, 'Yeah, give me one of those things.'
"I had a chance when I helped at a press event [for the film] down in Los Angeles to get in the cockpit and talk to the designer of it. That would be a pretty wild ride. That would be great."
Oblivion is available on DVD and Blu-ray with UltraViolet and digital download now.