The Idea Blog (BCM312)
It is 1968, and 2001: A Space Odyssey opens in cinemas, eager to ignite the imagination of its viewers with the dream of space travel. Man hadn’t yet been to the moon, and children and adults alike would stare up into the night sky wondering what or who was out there, always firmly believing it was outside their grasp. In modern times, space travel seems more achievable than ever, and a few lucky (wealthy) Earth residents have had the chance to experience the Earth from space themselves, from a tourist perspective. Of course, along with this comes a new plethora of advertising.
For my Idea Blog, I have decided to choose the topic ‘The Planet’, specifically focusing on the emergence of Space Tourism as an exciting new frontier. As a young girl I was always obsessed with space, the night sky and aliens if I am completely honest. I’ve lapped up films such as Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, Star Wars, and when I sat down to my computer to think about what most interests ME, it was space travel. I feel like many people my age get excited when thinking about the future of technology regarding space travel, and with the emergence of Elon Musk and SpaceX taking the online world by storm I could not think of a better topic to focus my efforts on.
As of this moment in time, the only orbital space tourism efforts have been conducted by the Russian Space Agency. As per their website, 8 flights have successfully been completed. They seem to mostly cater to the wealthy as there are of course no price points, but rather a feature where you can contact the agency directly in order to gauge a proposed price (although it has been stated by one lucky customer to be into $30 million!). Launius and Jenkins recognise this, “There are two types of tourists conflated by the advocates of space tourism. The first are a tiny group of adventurers with significant wealth and other resources who seek thrills and bragging rights. The second group seeks more modest excursions with a minimum of risk and a smaller price tag.” (Jenkins & Launius, 2007). Another interesting feature on this website is that not only do they offer orbital space flights and trips to the ISS, but they offer much more low-cost activities that are space orientated, such as the opportunity to train as an astronaut and eat space food (Space Adventures, 2018). Another thing to consider is that with space tourism becoming more widespread online, will it push people to participate in vacation activities that surround the concept of space? Perhaps this will be a more likely venture for the middle class consumer until actual space travel becomes more sustainable and therefore cheaper.
I am most interested to discover whether the every day human, like myself, see vacationing into the cosmos as a real possibility, and how has the media contributed this? Who is the target audience, the wealthy or the middle class? Collins (2014) explores the future of this, “According to current reports in the media, traveling to outer space should become possible for everyone by the beginning of the next century. Developing low‐cost passenger launch vehicles is not just to create an expensive pastime for the wealthy but develop a large ‘middle‐class’ market rich. Indeed, until access to space is cheap, it will not be possible to make use of the limitless resources available in space to solve the problems of our ever‐more‐crowded Earth.”
I feel like through academic research, a focus group, an online survey and delving into google analytics, I can find out how the audience online feels about space tourism (and how the media has impacted this), and what this may mean for the future of the tourism sector. Will people begin to think about international travel as banal in comparison to the ever-expanding adventures that lay in the cosmos?
It is with all of this in mind that a propose a very early draft of a research question:
What is the public perception of Space Tourism on social media? Does Space Tourism seem like a graspable reality to the everyday consumer?
I think the results will be enlightening and have strong social significance. I propose that in the end, I will find out how the emergence of space tourism could affect the human mindset. It is said that when someone goes into space for the first time and experiences the earth as a small disk in the window of a rocket, the vastness of the universe finally becomes apparent and you kind of get a better sense of how small we really are. As stated by Richard Garriott (2018), “it’s a shift in perspective, a sensation of complete oneness that comes with being able to take in the whole planet in a single glimpse”. Garriott, the sixth person to ever undergo a commercial space trip, explores this phenomenon and names it “The Overlooker Effect”. It might be interesting to think about how if more people delve into space exploration, perhaps they might be more inclined to think or our earth as a living thing, rather than just a rock to call home.
Clifford, C 2018, ‘What it’s like to travel to space, from a tourist who spent $30 million to live there for 12 days’, CNBC, weblog post, 19 October, viewed 19 March 2019, <https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/19/what-its-like-in-space-from-a-tourist-who-spent-30-million-to-go.html>.
Cole, S 2015, ‘Space tourism: prospects, positioning, and planning’, Journal of Tourism Futures, vol. (1), no. (2).
Launius, RD & Jenkins, DR 2007, ‘Is It Finally Time for Space Tourism?’, Astropolitics: The International Journal of Space Politics & Policy, vol (4), no (3).
Launius, RD 2016, ‘Early Ideas of Space Touris’, Roger Launius’s Blog, weblog post, 20 May, viewed 19 March 2019, <http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/12/has_the_word_co.html>.
Space Adventures 2019, viewed 18 March 2019, <http://www.acci.asn.au/text_files/issues_papers/2010/Youth%20Employment%20Paper%20May%202010_final.pdf>.