22 February 2020
American technology company SpaceX says it plans to launch as many as four private citizens into a higher orbit than ever before.
SpaceX is working with U.S.-based Space Adventures Inc. to offer the space flights, the two companies recently announced. No dates or costs for the flights were announced.
Space Adventures has already helped send seven space tourists to the International Space Station, or ISS, aboard Russian Soyuz rockets.
The SpaceX trips will not send the space tourists to the ISS. Instead, the tourists will be launched to an orbit two to three times higher -- about 800 to 1,200 kilometers above Earth.
The citizens will be carried by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, which was developed to transport NASA astronauts. SpaceX is planning to use the Crew Dragon to launch its first NASA-crewed flight later this year. The spacecraft has only flown in space once so far, completing a successful test flight last year with no crew.
A spokeswoman for Space Adventures, Stacey Tearne, told The Associated Press that the tourist flights could take place by the end of next year. She said the company was already in talks with several possible customers.
Tearne noted that no professional pilot or astronaut would be required on the tourist flights because the Dragon operates fully autonomously. Passengers, will, however, be able to control the spacecraft if required, she added.
The cost will be similar to earlier tourist flights, Tearne said. Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil, paid $35 million for a 10-day space station flight in 2009. Laliberte said from orbit that the flight it was "worth every penny and more."
The first private citizen to fly in space was Dennis Tito, a California businessman. He paid $20 million for an eight-hour stay on the ISS in 2001.
"This historic mission will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it," said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX.
The president of Space Adventures, Eric Anderson, said the tourist flights would be able to reach at least twice the orbit of any past citizen astronaut mission or space station visitor."
That orbit would also place the tourist flights well beyond the levels of other companies that currently offer space tourism flights.
Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin are both developing spacecraft to send private citizens to just beyond the border of space, about 80 kilometers above Earth.
The price for Virgin Galactic flights started at $250,000 when they first went on sale in 2004.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Space Adventures. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
tourist – n. a person who travels to a place for pleasure
customer – n. a person who buys goods or services
autonomously – adv. the ability to operate independently
penny – n. a monetary unit of one cent
forge – v. to make or produce
mission – n. a task or job that someone is given to do