Billionaires are extremely keen on getting into space — and taking other billionaires' money in exchange for a seat. Here's how to talk to your family about it.
As You Pass the Mashed Potatoes
As of right now, a handful of companies are starting to sell tickets on board their spacecraft to "space," with the hopes of establishing an entirely new industry. But everything from the environmental impact to the definition of "space" is up for hot debate.
If You Wanna Seem Very Well Informed
Both Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos and Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson launched to "space" on their respective companies' spacecraft this year, ogling the Earth's surface below and waxing poetic about having their perspectives on life changed after spending a handful of minutes floating around the cabin.
And the tickets aren't cheap. In fact, they are so not-cheap that companies are struggling to sell tickets. Did we mention they're aren't even going to actual space-space?
While Bezos made it past the Karman line, which is the internationally agreed upon — and essentially arbitrary — boundary of space at 62 miles, neither billionaire CEO made it far past the upper atmosphere, nevermind orbit around Earth.
One company, the Elon Musk-led SpaceX, is already going much farther. Its Inspiration4 crew spent three days orbiting the planet on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft in September, on an orbital path almost 300 miles past where Bezos and Branson traveled.
All told, space tourism is the latest conclusion of private companies trying to take your money in exchange for spending next spring break in space. But is it really all it's cracked up to be? That's highly debatable.
If You Wanna Be a Downer
Did we mention that rocketing into space is still an incredibly polluting process? While NASA, often with the help of SpaceX, is sending humans into space for the sake of furthering our scientific understanding of nature and space, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin and SpaceX are all doing so to give rich people cloud — while exacting an environmental toll that we don't even fully understand.
More on space tourism: Space Tourism Company Cancels Launch Because It Couldn't Find Any Passengers