Home' Technology Review : January February 2009 Contents ORAL HISTORY
TECHNOLOGY REVIEW JANUARY/ FEBRUARY
In 1995, Peter Diamandis founded the X Prize Foundation,
which started a private space race by o ering big money to
the first group that could perform two manned suborbital
flights within two weeks. In 1998, he cofounded Space
Adventures Ltd. with $250,000 in seed capital and an even more
audacious idea for bringing the private sector to bear on space
exploration: tourism. It took three years of negotiations with
the Russian authorities, but in 2001, former NASA engineer
turned financier Dennis Tito flew to the International Space
Station and back in a Soyuz capsule's third seat, next to the
commander and engineer. Tito and Space Adventures opened
the stars to anyone who could pay the freight.
Since Tito, five have followed. First was Mark Shuttleworth,
a young South African Internet tycoon who was a key player
in the rise of secure e-commerce. The second was Greg Olsen,
a scientist who made his fortune developing near-infrared
cameras. The first female space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, an
Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur (and part
of the family that sponsored the $10 million X Prize), flew third.
Fourth was computer scientist Charles Simonyi, the former
Microsoft executive responsible for Word and Excel. Finally,
there was Richard Garriott, the son of a NASA astronaut, who's
more famous as his alter ego, Lord British---a ruler in Ultima,
the online world that he dreamed up. Space Adventures has
brokered all of these trips, to a greater or lesser extent, and it
claims to have sold $200 million worth of space travel so far.
Technology Review has set out to compile the first oral history
of space tourism. We asked each of the five travelers who came
after Tito to describe the trip. They gave hours of their time,
sitting separately for multiple interviews over a six-month
period. Most have never met, but they all told essentially the
same story of blasto , weightlessness, reëntry, and revelation.
We've distilled, edited, and organized their words to create a
composite story of what a space vacation is really like.
Garriott: I grew up in an astronaut household, and my right-
hand next-door neighbor was Joe Engle, an astronaut. My
left-hand neighbor was Hoot Gibson, another astronaut. I
had another astronaut over the back fence, and many others
in my one-block walk around the neighborhood as a kid. So
I grew up believing everybody went to space, because every-
body did go to space, if you know what I mean. It was a NASA
physician who told me that my poor eyesight would prevent
me from being selected as a NASA astronaut. While briefly
that made me very sad, it also made me realize that if I was
going to get to space, it was going to have to be through the
route of privatization, not the route of government.
Shuttleworth: After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was fairly
clear that the Russian space program was going through a bit of
a financial crisis, and there were rumors that they were talking
to people about private flight. I tried getting hold of the Russian
consulate in Cape Town but didn't have a lot of success.
Garriott: I had been investing in the privatization of space since
I first began to make money in the computer games industry.
I was one of the first investors in Space Adventures. I person-
ally paid for the study to find out if it would be possible and
how much it would cost. When [the Russian Federal Space
Agency] came back with the price, I actually had the money
and was prepared to go.
Shuttleworth: We went to Moscow, primarily to meet di er-
ent players in the industry. The medical establishment, the
military guys in Star City [site of the Gagarin Cosmonaut
Training Center]. Dennis [Tito] hadn't flown yet.
Garriott: We began to move as if I was going to be the first
civilian to fly in space. Unfortunately, that's also when the
dot-com crash occurred, and of course, being a high-tech guy,
all of my assets were in high tech. I got wiped out.
Shuttleworth: There was no standard deal. You had to negoti-
ate with the folks who do the suits, the folks who do the medi-
THE LAUNCH OF SPACE TOURISM
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