Spaced out, starry eyed

Updated: Dec 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
Been there, done that. If you are a much travelled man (or woman) and the lonely planet no longer holds much appeal for you, check out outer space this 2007. Factually speaking, there is no destination up there. Still, space travel is set to be the hottest tourist destination this year. And with travel time of only two hours and five minutes of weightlessness being the high point of your journey, all for $200,000, surely it doesnt come cheap.

PlanetSpace, owned by Chirinjeev Kathuria and Geoff Shireen, is ready to blast off into the commercial world of space travel, launching suborbital (100 kms into space) passenger flights from Cape Rich, Ontario, in mid-2007. We have a list of 3,000 people ready to sign up for a quick trip to space at $200,000, says Kathuria.

Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic too is in the race, with his plans to fly to the amazing world by late 2008 for $200,000. Already, around 300 people have signed a contract to pay the full cost of a suborbital flight with Virgin, and over 30,000 have indicated their willingness to pay the $20,000 deposit for flights.

Add to the list Space Adventures, which also runs the oh-so exclusive orbital flights, and best known for brokering three tourists to the international space station. It plans to develop Russian-designed suborbital rockets that would launch from a proposed spaceport in the UAE by 2008. Its waiting list boasts names of over 200 people who have either paid the deposit money of $10,000 for a future suborbital spaceflight or the full amount when such rides become available for $100,000 per ticket.

But for now, it is an exclusive club. Till now, only four tourists have paid a reported $20 million each to ride aboard a Russian rocket to the orbiting ISS for one week stays. And with sub-orbital flights waiting in the wings, space no longer seems very far off for ordinary rich mortals in the sub-continent.

So if you want to see the shimmering blue planet from the dark of space, book your tickets now.