According to mid-century science fiction, humans should be taking regular vacations to outer space by now. And while these visions certainty haven’t come to pass at a Jetsons-style level, if you can wait two more years, Axiom Space promises to make that a reality—for travellers with deep enough pockets, of course. This week, the Houston-based company announced that beginning in 2020, it will offer 10-day missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and, ultimately, aboard a separate, Philippe Starck–designed Axiom commercial space station.
Adventurous travellers (and who are over 21 and have also passed a medical fitness exam) will enjoy 15 weeks of training to prep them for launch, then ten days of “living” in space, complete with custom-crafted meals, daily activities, a private designer sleeping pod, and Wi-Fi—a must for posting photos and videos that only one in 13 million people alive today have had the opportunity to take. The launches will be able to take place all year-round, and voyagers yearning for more can upgrade to a 60-day mission (for an extra $25 million).
The race to launch earthlings into the great unknown has been heating up in the last several years, with commercial space travel in development by well-known names like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, as well as companies like Orion Span already taking reservations for a space hotel set to launch in 2021. But while many of the other ventures will take passengers to the edge of space, Axiom will be the first to actually take them into orbit. That, and an agreement with NASA to access the ISS, are just some of what Axiom co-founder, CEO, and President, Michael Suffredini, says differentiates his company from others in the space race—and what allows them to open up a whole galaxy of possibilities.
“We will serve six customer segments,” explains Suffredini, a 27-year NASA vet who managed and operated the ISS, and later worked with an engineering company that helped train astronauts. In addition to hosting private astronauts (the title that $55 million will buy you), the company will offer programs for “professional astronauts, researchers, manufacturers, advertisers, and space exploration entities, such as governments and companies.” While the “ultra-high net worth private astronauts are going up for the life-defining experience,” Suffredini has much wider-reaching plans for the Axiom project, and hopes that these other entities will get involved to spur STEM education, test products ranging from medicine to communication devises, and create more competitive workforces. So, as Suffredini notes, increased space access across these sectors will mean endless opportunities for collaboration and progress, and boundless potential benefits to humanity.
Of course, we don’t blame you if you just want to go up for the bragging rights. Those Starck-designed quarters each feature with 24-inch windows framing Earth, premium sound, and video streaming capabilities. There will be flavourful (and increasingly fresh) meals offered in a cupola-style Earth Observatory lounge where you can picnic with fellow voyagers while overlooking the planet, and well-earned drinks served in espresso cups and cocktail glasses specifically-engineered to work in microgravity.
That said, the CEO does hope the experience will inspire something larger. “Seeing the world as a delicate, singular entity against the vast backdrop of the universe indelibly changes people,” he explains. “Most individuals return from space with a profound sense of urgency to do more to protect our fragile planet and all of its inhabitants. Axiom private astronauts will be some of the most influential people in the world, so together with their philanthropic organizations, we see a positive change coming for all of us and our home planet.”