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Space tourism will lift-off in 2018 | The Economist

Space tourism will take-off in 2018. As the race between spaceflight companies Virgin Galactic and SpaceX heats up, those who can afford it will be able to travel to low Earth orbit and possibly even around the moon.

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In late 2018, tourists will be heading into space and there is a race on to get them there. Virgin Galactic will at last take paying customers beyond the stratosphere. But their efforts might be eclipsed by SpaceX, a company planning to send two tourists around the Moon. Taking them farther into space than any human since 1972.

There is a new breed of would-be astronauts for whom the sky is no limit. But it is not in everyone’s reach. Multi-millionaire entrepreneur, Per Wimmer will be one of the first tourists to go into space with private company, Virgin Galactic.

If it all goes to plan, in 2018, Virgin Galactic will launch Mr Wimmer to the edge of the atmosphere where he’ll be able to look back down on Earth.

But Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, plans to go one step further on a flyby loop around the Moon. Only 24 astronauts have ever made the almost 240,000-mile voyage to Earth’s nearest neighbour.

In 2018, two paying customers could be the first humans to venture that far into space for over 40 years. But this mission is shrouded in mystery.

There are serious doubts whether these ambitious targets can be reached in 2018. SpaceX has yet to carry out fundamental tests on the launcher. But if these missions do go ahead, they’ll be dangerous ventures.

18 people have died in spaceflight. One of Virgin Galactic’s own test pilots lost his life in training in 2014.

This boom in the commercial space industry marks a new era in space travel. Opening space up to the masses may have an impact on the way humans see the Earth itself.

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