a Frenchman among space “tourists”

a Frenchman among space “tourists”
a Frenchman among space “tourists”

This Sunday, May 19, alongside five other passengers, Frenchman Sylvain Chiron will fly aboard a rocket from the company Blue Origin, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, for around fifteen minutes into space. Thanks to its reusable New Shepard rocket, Blue Origin offers regular tourist flights approximately every three months. This new journey will bring to 37 the number of non-astronauts to have gone beyond the atmosphere with American society, since July 2021. A gallery of travelers which includes a few guests for the good cause but above all ready millionaires to pay a high price to satisfy their desire to include their name on the short list of humans who have reached space.

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Due to the colossal resources allocated by Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic in the development of their devices, tourist flights are increasing. But embarking on the conquest of space obviously remains a very elitist activity.

A first French passenger

Sylvain Chiron was born in the Savoyard Alps, in Chambéry. In 1999, he created the Mont-Blanc brewery, which will become one of the largest artisanal breweries in France, with nearly 30 million euros in turnover in 2022. Passionate about skiing and space, he decides to fill out the registration form on the Blue Origin website and buys his ticket, the entry price of which is not made public but is estimated in hundreds of thousands of euros. Two other of these one-day astronauts, the Americans Mason Angel and Kenneth L. Hess, are also entrepreneurs. The first is the head of a venture capital fund supporting businesses, while the second is a software engineer, we can read on the Blue Origin website. Aviator Gopi Thotakura will also be part of the flight.

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The only woman in the group, Carol Schaller, is a retired accountant. After her doctor told her she would likely go blind, she visited more than 25 countries. The final passenger, Ed Dwight, was the first black astronaut candidate to be selected in 1961 by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy to participate in an Air Force flight training program, the gateway to the NASA. However, the federal agency did not retain him and he subsequently became a renowned sculptor. At the age of 90, he is finally preparing to go into space. He is the only one of the crew not to have paid for his ticket on his own, thanks to the support of the Space for Humanity association.

Between $250,000 and $55 million for a ticket

Hayley Arceneaux, a medical assistant who survived bone cancer, also took part in a flight to space for free. In 2021 she was selected to be part of the crew of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ship, among the employees of the hospital where she worked. At 29, she became the youngest American to reach space. An exception in tourism reserved for the most fortunate, because flying to space most often requires very large resources. To go to zero gravity, it costs between 250,000 and 55 million dollars (between 230,000 and 53 million euros), depending on the operators and the experience offered.

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In recent years, the cheapest tickets on the market have been sold by Virgin Galactic for a sum ranging from 230,000 to 430,000 euros. Of the 800 people who had then reserved their tickets, with the company of billionaire Richard Branson, 14 went into space. The proposed flights are fast and reach the Karman line, the beginning of space, at an altitude of 100 km, before descending. In comparison, Blue Origin tickets, for the same experience, still cost several million euros. The company would eventually like to offer space travel for a price of €230,000.

The DearMoon project, symbol of excess

In 2018, SpaceX undoubtedly received the most ambitious order for a tourism project in space: the DearMoon project, from Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. The place to fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ship is the most expensive, as billionaire Elon Musk’s company promises several days in space. The company has so far carried out two tourist flights, in September 2021 and April 2022.

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The latter wishes to carry out a six-day flight around the Moon with eight other artists from all over the world, so that they can draw inspiration from this space journey. The price has not been disclosed, but it is expected to reach hundreds of millions of dollars. No new date has been set for this flight, which was originally planned for 2023.

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