Is reality about to hit home for space tourism?

Chilling Effect

In what could be a serious reality check for the buzz-filled space tourism industry, its most established player says it had to cancel its upcoming launch with SpaceX because it couldn't find any viable — and sufficiently wealthy — passengers for the journey.

"The mission was marketed to a large number of our prospective customers, but ultimately the mix of price, timing and experience wasn’t right at that particular time and our contract with SpaceX expired," company spokesperson Stacey Tearne told SpaceNews. "We hope to revisit the offering in the future."

Down to Earth

That comes as a major narrative shift after the Inspiration4 mission, which launched four amateur astronauts aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for a three-day joyride in Earth's orbit last month.

The event seized global attention as a proof of concept for future space tourism endeavors. However, the rough edges of the journey — ranging from toilet troubles to sickness on board, nevermind the journey's enormous price tag, estimated to be around $200 million — may have also demonstrated that the target demographic for space tourism is both very small, tolerant of significant discomfort, and inordinately wealthy.

Hold Outs

In spite of Space Adventures' woes — the company has existed since the early 2000s and has sent several tourists to space, but none since 2009 — there are still several planned space tourism launches. Axiom Space, for instance, plans to launch a crew of four, including a former NASA astronaut and a wealthy entrepreneur, to the International Space Station early in 2022.

Even Space Adventures still has one journey on the books, in which it plans to launch Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to the International Space Station in December — though in a Russian Soyuz capsule instead of a SpaceX vehicle.

READ MORE: Space Adventures no longer planning Crew Dragon flight [SpaceNews]

More on SpaceX: SpaceX Is Doubling Its Number of Astronaut-Carrying Spacecraft

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