Zegrahm Space Voyages, a division of Seattle-based adventure tour operator Zegrahm Expeditions, is taking reservations for what it bills as the world's first tourist space shot on December 1, 2001.
For a cool $98,000, you can book your own recliner on the as-yet unbuilt Space Cruiser, a shuttle-like craft that will whisk travelers to the official "astronaut altitude" of 62 miles above sea-level.
Scott Fitzsimmons, Zegrahm's main spokesman for outer space travel, told reporters, "The interest has been staggering -- mostly from tour companies who realize that the future is not here on Earth but up in space."
Zegrahm's low-orbit holiday got a vote of confidence recently when the alumni travel program at Stanford University, one of America's most prestigious schools, offered its members a chance to book a spot on "undoubtedly the most expensive program we've ever offered."
Zegrahm envisions a seven-day package including hotel, meals, lectures and training. But the main event is the 2-1/2 hour sub-orbital flight culminating in just 2-1/2 minutes of continual weightlessness.
Fitzsimmons puts the flight's sky-high pricetag in perspective by noting, "Every time the space shuttle takes off, it costs $500 million."
But others say they can launch the space tourism industry at a much lower ticket price. Houston-based Advent Launch Systems touts its Civilian Astronaut Corps as the way for budget-minded adventurers to take the ride of their lives for a mere $3,500.
"We hope to get off in 1999, so we'll beat [Zegrahm] to it," said Harry Dace, Advent's co-founder. "Our trip will be a real joy ride."
Other groups are taking a longer-term view.
"We're looking to space tourism from other companies to build interest in our project," said Ian Randal Strock, vice president of Lunar Resources Co., a Texas company with hopes of building a commercial moonbase resort.
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