Believe it or not, the question isn’t as crazy as it seems. There are actually a few different options for budding space tourists—though none are easy, or cheap. Here are the ways to do it, some of them conventional, others not so much.
Get a Job on Wall Street
Becoming a 1 percenter helps a lot. In 2001, Dennis Tito became the first space tourist by buying his way onto an eight-day Russian mission to the International Space Station. Although he once worked as a scientist at NASA, his opportunity to orbit the earth didn’t come until after he used his analytical math skills to form an asset management company and became a gazillionaire. The total price tag for his adventure: $20 million. The trip was facilitated by Virginia-based Space Adventures, Ltd., which has rocketed six insanely rich others beyond the atmosphere—including a video game developer, the creator of Cirque du Soleil, and a former Microsoft executive—with the help of the Russian space program.
Virgin Galactic, the space flight company owned by Richard Branson, is taking online reservations for suborbital joyrides on its spacecraft modeled after the SpaceShipOne rocket plane that won the Ansari X Prize in 2004. The cost is $250,000, with a refundable 10 percent down payment, so you might need to up the credit limit on your Visa for this. No firm dates have been set for when flights will commence, but the company is predicting within the next year.
Be Like Bieber
Former 'N Sync singer Lance Bass was the first boy pop star to make a serious go at flying into space as a paying tourist. He entered cosmonaut training in 2002 as part of a TV documentary, but his producers ultimately couldn’t raise the $20 million fare from sponsors, so he was removed from the mission. Not to be outdone, Justin Bieber reportedly booked a reservation for a flight on Virgin Galactic. To announce that he’ll be boldly going where not even his speeding Lamborghini could take him, he tweeted, “Let’s shoot a music video in SPACE!!”
@richardbranson @scooterbraun @virgingalactic let's shoot a music video in SPACE!! #nextLEVEL
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) June 5, 2013
You could always become a real astronaut. NASA posts its requirements here. Be forewarned: Just to qualify to apply, you need to log 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft, have a science or math degree, and be really physically fit. Good luck.
Take a Balloon Ride
Arizona-based adventure company World View claims that it will be offering balloon rides to the edge of the atmosphere—more than 100,000 feet above the earth—beginning in 2016. The director of crew operations is retired astronaut and former Space Shuttle commander Mark Kelly. Cost for a seat will be $75,000, and you can reserve one now with a $5,000 deposit.