Space tourism gets down to earth

MSNBC’s Alan Boyle on the future of space tourism:

The most popular destinations for space tourism won’t be in outer space itself, but right here on Earth. Already, an estimated 1.5 million stream through Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex every year, and that rate is expected to tick upward after today’s opening of the Shuttle Launch Experience, the center’s virtual space ride.

In the years to come, a new generation of space-themed attractions could morph into working spaceports – where crowds of tourists can watch real-life space fliers as they train for the trip of a lifetime.

At least that was the vision set forth on Thursday by Michael Lyon, managing director of Spaceport and president of Lyon Capital Inc. Lyon gave a progress report on the plans for space centersin Singapore as well as the United Arab Emirates during the Space Venture Finance Symposium, a warmup for this week’s International Space Development Conference in Dallas.

Spaceport has partnered with Virginia-based Space Adventures and other backers to develop actual launch facilities in Ras al-Khaimah, one of the emirates, and in the island nation of Singapore. Eventually, the spaceports would serve as the home bases for suborbital spaceships yet to be built – but even before the first liftoff, they could offer Earth-based activities that give visitors a feel for the final frontier.

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