It might seem wrong to consider the frivolity of space tourism at a time when a global pandemic is killing hundreds of thousands worldwide and wreaking a seemingly incalculable effect on the business sector. The preface to this book, completed during the Covid-19 pandemic, tackles this head-on by recognising the need to “question the very notion of supporting the surely elitist pursuit of space tourism at all”.
Although the author does not need to justify the timing of his book, he quite reasonably points out that “as an element in the sustained economic recovery”, the space tourism business has “great prospects for generating good jobs and revenues”. Apart from that, commercial aviation began as an elitist pursuit and became something of an equaliser by democratising global tourism.
The fact that the author has been writing and talking about space tourism – in the future tense - for more than 20 years is not his fault. When SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004, most of us expected tourists to be buying suborbital hops by the end of the decade… and following another decade of development we are still waiting. Webber, however, remains optimistic and offers this “primer on the business of space tourism” to an audience from journalists to academics and from investors to budding space tourists themselves.
The book’s 14 main sections cover policy, finance, regulation, spaceports, crew and a host of other “issues and challenges”. There are also references, appendices, an index and one-page “datasheets” on subjects such as markets, client sales data and passenger references. The book is illustrated with colour and monochrome photos, along with charts and graphs.
No-one really knows when, or whether, space tourism will become a viable business. Like space power satellites, in–orbit manufacturing and a return of explorers to the Moon, it has taken longer than expected. The cover artwork for this book has a briefcase-carrying astronaut climbing the step to his rocket - steps formed, aptly enough, from books on policy, finance, regulations and so on. It has been a long, slow climb, but just as we’d all like to see COVID-19 in the rear mirror, surely even the author would like to see his book outdated in the near future.