People have always loved making plans to explore the unexplored. From the earth to space, some people want to do all. Now, not just billionaires, you too might be able to visit space soon.
Space travel has already become a trend among the ultra-rich. Think Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, Tesla boss Elon Musk; they are all in the race for commercial space travel.
Space wars 2.0? Space war today is clearly not about destroying each other's spaceships or rockets; rather, it is about an undeclared race in which countries are competing to send more and more rockets to space or capitalising on it. This "war" is quite visible, with each country wanting to launch their own indigenous rockets. From 2017 to 2021, more than 10,000 space-related companies were registered each year, according to the business information platform Qichacha.
China's space tourism plans: China has also entered the space tourism business and its national space agency, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), is planning to begin tourism flights to space by 2025. They will charge each passenger $287,200 to $430,800 (2-3 million yuan).
As the first stop, China's rocket will send seven people to space and it will travel to a similar stop like Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin will take their paying customers to. It will travel above the surface of the earth to an altitude of 100 kilometres, touching the Karman line. The Karman line is the 100-kilometre 'boundary' above earth, and is considered the beginning of space.
China is expecting to catch up with the development level of the US within 10 years. China is a latecomer to commercial space activities but is catching up quickly, with 370 commercial space-related companies registered in China just last year.
What is India's ISRO doing? While China has plans to send tourists to space, India is also not far behind, and has hinted at the possibility of sending tourists to space soon. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has some plans.
On June 10, 2022, a new department of ISRO called the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi. The main aim of the body is to encourage private participation in full-scale space operations, including space tourism.
During the inauguration, PM Modi said that "a wonderful chapter has been added to the development journey of modern India in the 21st century".
He also said that the private sector in the space industry has been viewed merely as a vendor, and the system always blocked the ways of progress for the private players in the space industry. But now, the private players will not just remain a vendor but will play the role of a big winners in the space sector.
What's next for India? ISRO's indigenous spacecraft mission Gaganyaan, which was announced in 2020 aimed to carry three people, has a planned upgraded version which will be equipped with rendezvous and docking capability.
The Gaganyaan mission in India is now long overdue and was delayed due to the pandemic. If launched, it would be the first completely Indian indigenous spacecraft to carry a crew along. Its launch will also display tremendous strength and capability, which will be useful for space tourism missions.
The mission is anticipated to launch between 2024 and 2025 if all tests are successful.
Currently, space tourism in India is only a pipe dream, but in order for it to materialise, ISRO must first ensure certain conditions, including the flawless completion of the Gaganyaan programme.
Finding successful launches of a reusable rocket intended for tourist transportation will be the next step, followed by confirmation that all systems are reliable and reasonably priced, to be commercially viable. It's anticipated that the Indian space tourism market will start to flourish by 2028.