Space tourism is likely to move from the realm of science fiction to science fact in the next couple of decades and create a new space industry segment.
Space tourism has already arrived for the super-rich, with American billionaire Denis Tito becoming the first paying passenger on a space flight in May 2001. His journey into space was facilitated by Space Adventures Ltd using a Russian Soyuz flight to the International Space Station. A handful of other wealthy individuals have followed in his footsteps.
Now a number of private companies around the world are competing to lead the space tourism market. Sub-orbital flights could form a significant element of this market with, among other players, proposals from Virgin Galactic and EADS Astrium's recent announcement about its plans to develop a rocket plane for this market. Other companies have plans for inflatable hotels in space.