Din the television series Star Trek, whose broadcast began in September 1966 in the United States, actor William Shatner played the iconic Captain Kirk, the hero at the head of the spacecraft USS Enterprise. This Wednesday, October 13, the 90-year-old comedian, boarded, for real, a rocket built by Blue Origin, the company of billionaire Jeff Bezos, for a flight at more than 100 kilometers altitude – i.e. the “border” between atmosphere and space. He was therefore to join the dozen space tourists who have already stepped out of the orbit of our planet’s atmosphere.
For two decades, in The world, space tourism has aroused as much enthusiasm as it has feared. The first time that the newspaper evokes it in its columns, it is to report a withdrawal. On June 8, 1999, journalist Hervé Morin recounts how British waste management magnate Peter Llewellyn canceled his departure aboard a Russian Soyuz vessel for the Mir station, where he had planned to spend ten days. A $ 100 million all-inclusive trip. This failure corroborates the author’s doubts about the possibility of this science fiction tourism: “For some time to come, our terrestrial suburbs will remain a space reserved for professional backpackers from space agencies. “
A possible industry
The announcement, on April 28, 2001, of the departure of the first space tourist, the American Dennis Tito, whose ticket to the International Space Station at $ 20 million is used to replenish the coffers of the Russian space program – responsible for the travel – yet arouses curiosity. “This contract could announce many others”, forecast reporter François Bonnet, March 24, 2001.
Several travelers, always sent by Moscow, come to support this intuition. It was confirmed when American companies joined, in 2004, what Hervé Morin imagined as a possible industry, no longer just reserved for businessmen. “Capable of paying $ 20 million for a jump seat on Mir or the space station”. The journalist quotes, on October 5, 2004, an American study estimating at 15,000 the number of volunteers by 2020.
The development of Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX, respectively led by billionaires Richard Branson (Virgin), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Elon Musk (Tesla), is receiving significant media attention. In 2005, The Space Tourist’s Handbook (“The tourist’s guide to space”), written by Eric Anderson, CEO of Space Adventures, is described by Eric Leser, correspondent in the United States, as a “Real tourist guide”, in which we can read the “Take-off instructions given to millionaires”.
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