Cover Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

On your next travel itinerary, shoot for the stars and visit space!

Wonder about the cosmos no more when companies finally begin selling seats to the spectacle that they call space tourism. This recreational travel experience will bring non-crew civilians beyond the verge of the earth.

See also: International Day Of Human Space Flight: 5 Unforgettable Highlights

Reputable astronauts and scientists have had their turn exploring space. Now, companies funded by centibillionaires are giving people outside the industry the chance to reach intergalactic space. But before you take on the adventure of a lifetime, read on to know more about space travel and its pros and cons.

Who's offering a seat?

Space companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are racing towards a future where regularly touring the cosmos is possible.

Virgin Galactic, which was recently granted a full commercial license by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow non-astronauts onboard a spacecraft, is preparing for this possibility. The company's founder Richard Branson will be joining the test crewed spaceflight on 11 July.

See also: Jeff Bezos Is About To Be First Space Billionaire To Travel The Cosmos

If all goes to plan, Branson will beat Blue Origin's founder, Jeff Bezos's plan to reach space while riding the first crewed spaceflight of the New Shephard on 20 July. Onboard the spacecraft will be Jeff, his brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and the auction winner. The third seat which was auctioned has reached USD28 million.

SpaceX, on the other hand, is not in any rush and is instead planning for something equally groundbreaking. The space company announced that it will launch the world’s first all-commercial astronaut mission called Inspiration4 to orbit.

How long will it take?

There are different types of space tourism: orbital, suborbital and lunar space tourism.

Orbital tourism usually reaches an altitude of more than 400 kilometres and allows passengers to stay in space for days or weeks. The Boeing Company has a contract with NASA that allows them to fly four astronauts and have a fifth passenger—most likely a space tourist—on board the Starliner. However, they have yet to do so. On the other hand, SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission will have tourists aboard the multi-day journey and will get to orbit the earth every 90 minutes.

Sub-orbital tourism reaches 100 kilometres and has been the talk of the town after companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic announced their plans on sending civilians to space. Blue Origin's New Shepard, which will launch with Jeff on board, will spend 11 minutes in space. Virgin Galactic's mission to carry the crew Unity 22 including Richard will last for an hour.

Why should we care?

We are in the midst of a new era of space exploration. This has inspired others to consider space colonization. A study by Richard D Johnson of NASA Ames Research Center and Charles Holbrow of Colgate University say that space settlement shows hope and a sense of freedom from a planet that has limited resources and increasing ecological complications. 

Is it sustainable?

There should also be a concern for space tourism's environmental impact, given that these companies are "operating in an era of global environmental crisis" as mentioned in a recent study. A hefty price is to be paid just to get a ticket to space because of high-cost fuel. At the same time, these rockets generate a significant amount of pollution and carbon dioxide.

These space companies, however, have a chance to change this and employ sustainable materials and technology. It might take years for professionals to research and experiment for this to be done.

Hopefully, space tourism will inspire people to understand the cosmos and not be too quick to abandon the planet we inhabit.