SpaceX launched it’s first all-civilian spaceflight last week. The Inspiration4 crew of four non-professional astronauts ushered in a new era of spaceflight where anyone who can afford to buy a flight can travel to space. Inspiration4 rode SpaceX's Crew Dragon autonomous spacecraft around Earth for three days along a customized flight path. The crew enjoyed magnificent views of our planet from a max altitude of 585-kilometers, the highest any human has flown to since astronauts last serviced the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. The crew returned forever changed, with a new life perspective as they splashed down off the coast of Florida on September 18.
Upon Inspiration4’s return, SpaceX had a conference call with reporters to discuss the all-civilian mission. During the press conference call, SpaceX’s Senior Director of Human Spaceflight Benji Reed shared that the Inspiration4 mission attracted ‘tons of interest’ from people who want to purchase a space tour aboard Crew Dragon and Starship. –“The amount of people who are approaching us through our sales and marketing portals has actually increased significantly. There's tons of interest rolling in now,” Reed told reporters.
Reed said that SpaceX is looking at the possibility of manufacturing Crew Dragon vehicle’s exclusively for space tourism. “If the demand is there, then we'll want to look at what we can do to continue to grow that,” he said, according to ArsTechnica. “And then, on the horizon of course, is Starship. Starship will be able to carry a lot more people at once. So, you know, there's really both options, and we have interest for both Dragons and Starships, which is pretty exciting.” SpaceX's Crew Dragon can only carry 7 passengers; The company’s Starship launch vehicle that is under development at Starbase, Texas, will be capable of carrying up to 100 passengers and have enough room for people to have their individual cabins, unlike Dragon.
The cost per seat aboard Crew Dragon to transport astronauts to the International Space Station is approximately $55 million, however, Reed did not discuss what the price for an orbital mission to cruise around Earth is. The cost for Inspiration4 was not disclosed during the press call. Reed said that SpaceX does hope to drive prices down long-term. “If you look at the track record of SpaceX, we've driven down launch costs overall,” he told reporters. “When you look at what it really costs for us to be servicing the NASA [missions] or other things that we're doing, we're trying very hard to drive that down. And in opening up the market to these kinds of visions, we're doing something nobody's ever been able to do before. But you've got to keep driving that cost down.”
Reed did not disclose details on what organizations or individuals are considering booking a space tour with SpaceX. The company already has multiple contracts to launch private civilian flights with multiple agencies, including Axiom and Space Adventures. A future space tourism mission managed by Axiom will launch Hollywood actor Tom Cruise to the International Space Station to film a movie sometime next year. Cruise had the opportunity to call the Inspiration4 crew while they orbited Earth to briefly discuss their experience in space, according to project representatives.
Before Cruise launches to space Axiom will launch another crew during the first quarter of 2022. The passengers that will launch aboard Crew Dragon during their first mission (AX-1) are: former NASA astronaut and Axiom vice president Michael López-Alegría as commander; American entrepreneur and non-profit activist investor Larry Connor as pilot; Canadian investor and philanthropist Mark Pathy; and impact investor and philanthropist Eytan Stibbe of Israel.
Featured Image Source: NASA & SpaceX