When will I be able to go to Space?
I guess the question on everyones lips is when will I be able to go to space? Well if you have $20 million spare then you can hitch a lift with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft like Dennis Tito did back in 2001, but if you are looking for something a little more reasonable there should soon be more viable options available to you.
Virgin Galactic are a little ahead of the field here and claim they will start sending paying tourists into space in 2008, that's only 2 years away now as of writing this (March 2006), although some reports suggest this may have been put back until 2010. Only a couple of years ago we wouldn't have even thought it would be possible within the next 25-50 years, now all of a sudden the doors have opened and a whole new spcae race has begun, fuelled by the passion of individuals and the limitless potential space would seem to offer for companies to turn a profit. Space tourism has the potential to be a huge and growing market over the next half of a century, and there are plenty of entrepeneurs ready to take the plunge and try and get there first.
However there are still many obstacles which stand in the way of would be space tourism companies, some technical and some bureaucratic, and much depends on the policies governments take towards the market and the levels of safety they impose on the companies before allowing them to offer trips to paying customers.
If governments adopt a pioneering and adventurous approach and accept that there will be accidents and problems along the way, but this is part of the intrinsically dangerous nature of space exploration, then space tourism at an affordable cost will be possible. However if they impose the kind of safety standards which standard airlines have to go by, this will push up costs and time so far to be beyond the reach of anyone but the super rich, thus killing off the business and taking us right back to square one. Leaving governments the only organisations that can afford to send people into space.
The technology is really there, its now just the bureaucracy and boxes that need to be ticked to make this a viable industry for companies to make a profit.