If you have visions of strapping into a small seat aboard one of those old-school Kennedy Space Center rockets, you might need to choose your space travel company carefully. That’s because many of the private companies leading the tourism space race have done away with some of the traditional designs, and are instead using utterly futuristic-looking vehicles to launch you skyward.
Virgin Galactic will use a winged “rocket plane” that will be carried into the sky by a separate aircraft and dropped some 50,000 feet above the earth’s surface. Arizona-based World View has a similar plan, except they intend on using a helium balloon to lift passengers to 100,000 feet, where they’ll remain for up to two hours before returning to earth.
If you’re set on a vertical take off, you might have to wait for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to get off the ground — the company is investing its money into a slightly more traditional rocket, topped by a small passenger capsule. SpaceX is following a similar approach with Dragon 2 and Falcon Heavy.
Although the jury is still out on the best approach, with each offering its own benefits for both company and tourist, one thing is patently clear — the crafts launching tourists into space will be among the most futuristic vehicles imaginable.