Do you wish for an “unearthly ” vacation? American astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin, famous for being the second man to land on the moon, is one of the few people working to promote tourism in space. But if the thought of a holiday in space is mind-boggling, the cost of that thought is even more so – almost $200 million for an out-of-the-world experience! Realising the need to make space travel as normal as buses or trains, an American company called the X Prize Foundation is trying to cut down the cost of space travel.

Skyrocketing Holidays
Skyrocketing Holidays [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]

If the company succeeds, one lucky human could be heading for a space vacation at the cost of a bus ticket! The foundation is organising a lottery for a seat on the rocket that will zoom up in space. There’s a slight catch, though. The rocket is yet to be designed.

Since its inception in 1996, the X Prize Foundation has attracted several sponsors. It is now offering $10 million (about Rs 40 crore) for the best rocket design. Seventeen international teams, including a few amateurs, are competing to build the safest and most affordable passenger rocket.

Space Tourism: Ready for a Skyrocketing Holiday
Space Tourism: Ready for a Skyrocketing Holiday

The Foundation’s officials say that for a craft to be eligible for the prize, it must fly twice within a 14-day period with three passengers on board. It must fly 100 km high into space. While none of the contestants are ready with their designs, a few are confident of creating the ideal spacecraft by the year 2002. The X Prize Foundation was founded in 1996, by a group of American businesspeople intent on creating low-cost space travel vehicles.

The X Prize is formulated in the style of early aviation prizes. In the 1900s, hundreds of aviation prizes inspired different aircraft designs. The prizes also motivated pilots to set records which were hitherto thought of as impossible. Charles Lindbergh, was one such contestant, who became the first person to fly nonstop across the Atlantic alone. Like the organisations of yore, the X Prize Foundation officials are hoping that their efforts will change the way people view space flight — and tourism.