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City in Space
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Space: The final frontier for tourism?

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September 26, 1999
Web posted at: 2:03 p.m. EDT (1803 GMT)

From Correspondent Jim Hill

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Want to take an out-of-this-world trip? For a mere $90,000, you can buy a ticket for a rocket ride into space.

One company already has 100 ticket holders waiting to reach for the stars.

"Experience weightlessness ... Be able to see the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space, and then return to Earth," says Robert Pearlman of Space Adventures Ltd. in a pitch for the Arlington, Virginia-based space travel and exploration company.

The technology that took NASA decades to develop is now being examined by tourism entrepreneurs who hope to launch an industry odyssey.

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"If we can get the transportation systems operating, we can create markets. We can get savings of scale. Costs start dropping, and then you and I get to go," says Rick Tumlinson of the Space Frontier Foundation, a media and policy organization of space activists, scientists, engineers and others. The group's main goal is large-scale permanent settlement of space.

A room with a global view

The Space Frontier Foundation's Los Angeles conference this month drew advocates who say tourists may be able to take flight on spaceships in as few as five years.

One eventual prospect, the International Space Station, set for completion in 2004, may one day have rooms run by private companies for vacationing private citizens.

"NASA should not lead space tourism ... but we are certainly there to help any American company that wants to get into it," says NASA Administrator Dan Goldin.

Still, some critics think the idea of space travel for consumers in the near future is, well, a bit spacey.

"We've had accidents with our launch vehicles ... so space is a very hostile and risky place and it's not yet ready for tourism," says Louis Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin says the key to both safety and cost-effectiveness is a re-usable rocket engine.

"Eventually, private citizens will begin to take sub-orbital flights (and) orbital flights," Aldrin says. "And I think in the next 10 to 15 years we'll see that happen."



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RELATED SITES:
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