The space market today is worth $3 billion and only increasing. We spoke with Anousheh Ansari, Iranian American engineer and Chief Operating Officer of IBM, who was the co-founder and chairwoman of Prodea Systems before it was bought out by the leading technology company in North America.
It’s been 24 years since she became the fourth self-funded space tourist and the first self-funded woman to fly to the International Space Station. She has since toured on one other occasion accompanying her niece and American actress, Yara Shahidi.
We asked Ansari how space tourism has changed and where it’s going in the future.
“Space Tourism has become very luxurious,” she says.
Nowadays, you can take a 12-day trip aboard the Boeing Starliner-2 to the ISS for $11 million, which is exactly what Ansari and Shahidi did on the 28th of April, 2028.
“We traveled on the Starliner with a crew of 8 people. There are, of course, a lot of changes, like room & board, accommodation facilities, restaurant and bar, but the main difference is that now there’s the simulated gravity!”
Yes, that’s right. The ISS now has artificial gravity which emulates the force of gravity, allowing everyone to walk (instead of float) around freely.
The first trip Ansari took was more about research, scientific experiments with the European Space Agency and relaying her data and experience to students. She said it was a big adjustment on the body. “Your biorhythm is off since the sun rises and sets every 90 minutes, the spine stretches, fluid goes to the head with microgravity, and your muscle mass and bone density change – all things that the body has to adjust to in a relatively short amount of time.” For her, the first trip was about education and reflection, but the second trip was more about enjoyment and observing the excitement and astonishment of Shahidi, who was able to experience space travel, sans the additional headaches.
“Even though the cost has decreased somewhat, I believe it will become more and more affordable over time… And now there is a less pricey alternative!” says Ansari.
She is referring to parabolic microgravity flights as well as privately rented pressurized capsules started by World View Enterprises in Arizona. Now there are at least 20 clone experience-companies around the globe, all echoing the Space Perspective “Spaceship Neptune” concept launched in 2021 with test flights and which opened for tourists in 2024. The capsules, which can hold up to 12 passengers, are attached to a helium-filled balloon that can float up to 30.48 km. Passengers are offered champagne, lobster hors d’oeuvres, filet mignon, vegan tartare and ice cream, all while reclining on ergonomic chairs.
“The future is now here!” exclaims Ansari, who is looking forward to sharing her own spaceflight experiences with the rest of the population.
Matt Gohd, CEO of ZERO-G, a company that provides parabolic microgravity flights, was quoted in 2022 saying, “People have an increased awareness for cool experiences… The quest for experiences transcends the need for things.”
With at least 250,000 space tourists predicted for the year 2035, experience-tourism in space is on its way UP.
This article is not real but rather an imaginary take on space tourism in the future. It does however reference real people and real spaceflight companies that are using technological innovation and imagination to take space tourism from science fiction to a real life possibility.