The race for space is on

Ramesha Perera
Fri 07 Jun

SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are all promising to send private citizens into space within the next five years. In September, SpaceX announced that its first private paying customer will take a trip around the moon in 2023. Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has said he is aiming to send tourists to space by next year. And Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson recently claimed that his company would send people up before Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Russian Space Agency has already taken multiple paying individuals to space.

It’s seeming increasingly likely that more private citizens will be heading there soon. No wonder so many firms have spotted a potentially lucrative gap in the market: services to help astronauts prepare for launch.

Vladimir Pletser is a direct beneficiary of the space tourism industry’s growth. He was recently hired as the director of space training operations at startup Blue Abyss, based in the UK. The company is raising money to construct facilities that will offer space training to government astronauts as well as what Pletser prefers to call citizen astronauts. “‘Space tourist’ is a bit pejorative,” he says. “Even a person who would fly privately in space would be trained and become a real astronaut and would have something to do in flight. They would participate in the operation.”

He will train astronauts on things like moving in zero gravity, performing simple experiments, and exercising in space on longer trips. Pletser’s citizen astronauts will dive in pools to practice motion in zero or moon gravity, sit in centrifuges that simulate G-forces, and go on flights that provide a microgravity experience  , similar to some of the training government astronauts undergo as well.

Looks like a trip to space is no vacation - even for people whose checkbooks have paid for the golden launch ticket.