Space Tourism

Part of the Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration exhibition.

Today, national agencies like NASA aren't the only ones taking on the challenge of space exploration. Many private companies are developing vehicles to ferry astronauts, private citizens, and cargo into space. In 2009, Virgin Galactic unveiled its new spaceplanes—currently undergoing flight-testing.

Virgin Galactic's proposed spacecraft, shown with its carrier aircraft
Virgin Galactic

Founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson, private company Virgin Galactic is developing spaceplanes that will one day carry paying citizens into suborbital space—more than 60 miles above Earth—for a brief but unforgettable journey.

Infographic of slingshot maneuver on SpaceShipTwo

If you can afford a flight on SpaceShipTwo, get ready for days of pre-flight training to prepare for some of the intense effects. Several times during the flight, passengers will experience many times the normal force of gravity back on Earth.

A visualization of three passengers in space suits experiencing weightlessness in a chamber with multiple round windows.
Virgin Galactic

As of early 2014, more than 500 people have put down deposits toward the U.S. $200,000 cost to travel aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo

PayPal founder Elon Musk heads the private company SpaceX, which is building rockets and spacecraft that may one day carry more cargo (and maybe even humans) than any rocket since the Saturn V, which launched the Apollo missions to the Moon.

SpaceX Falcon
Pictured is SpaceX's Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule.