2067c7e15c868210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q3Space tourism1067c7e15c868210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Space tourismFloat through any social event with M's fast facts. This week John Mather explains space tourism.The instant expert<p><b>Float through any social event with <I>M's</I> fast facts. This week </B><i>John Mather</i><b> explains space tourism.</b>
<b>THE BASICS</b> A handful of companies are in a modern space race to send ordinary people with above-average incomes into space. Within a decade or two, brief trips into zero gravity might be commonplace, costing as little as $20,000 (Dh74,000).
<b>THE PAST</b> The first paying non-astronaut in orbit was Dennis Tito, an American. For $20million and despite Nasa's objections, the Space Adventures company flew him to the International Space Station with the Russian Space Agency. Five others have made the trip, including a man named Shuttleworth.</p>
<p><b>THE PRESENT</b> The high cost of space tourism has led some firms to develop less expensive, suborbital spacecraft, which fly up to 160km in the air, where passengers can be weightless. Virgin Galactic, which has received a $280m investment from Abu Dhabi's Aabar Investments, says it has 300 hopefuls willing to pay $200,000 for a two-and-a-half-hour flight.
<b>THE FUTURE</b> Space Adventures is developing a two-person, round-trip package to the moon for $100m. Hilton International has been planning the Hilton Orbital Hotel since the 1990s. And Bigelow Aerospace in Las Vegas has test-launched a couple of space modules, which could be turned into hotels.</p>
<p><b>THE CONVERSATION</b> Suggest you and your friends start up a discount space tourism company that costs only $100,000, but has no inflight meals and a eight-hour stopover in the stratosphere.</p>