The first civilian in space was Japanese newspaper reporter Toyohiro Akiyama in 1990. Then, six months later, Helen Sharman, the preeminent British chemist, won the radio contest, beating over 13,000 other British men and women. However, both were denied entry into the commercial space tourism club.
“Citizen access to space is extremely important as a tourism niche and, more importantly, for the future of humanity,” Dirk Duran-Gibson, professor emeritus at UNM.
In 1990, Akiyama spent a week in space on behalf of the Tokyo Broadcasting System, where he worked as a reporter. His employer paid $12 million for his 40th anniversary trip for his broadcast network.
Sharman was an eminent British chemist and member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). She responded to a radio advertisement from the Moscow People’s Bank for a free flight into space, along with 13,000 other British citizens. She was chosen because of her knowledge of chemistry. In May 1991, she spent eight days orbiting the Mir space station as part of the Juno project aimed at normalizing relations between Britain and the Soviet Union. The cost was $10 million.
These names are so often overlooked, and according to UNM Professor Emeritus Dirk Durand-Gibson, the first golden age of space tourism is long forgotten.
“Cosmos-X. Virgo Galaxy. blue origin. Names we all know,” said Duran-Gibson. “What about Armadillo Aerospace, Bigelow Aerospace, Eads Astrium, XCore Aerospace, UP Aerospace and Transformational Space Corporation, known as tSpace. Over 100 companies have announced plans to enter the civilian space race, but few have survived.
He argues that most people have forgotten about the first group of citizen space tourism promoters, such as the Council of Space Enterprises, the Space Frontier Foundation, the Space Access Society, the Space Tourism Society, the Personal Space Flight Industry, and the International Space Employers Association. more than 100 such organizations. Some of them are still active, Duran-Gibson said.
Over the past few years, the world has celebrated three journeys of citizens high into the Earth’s atmosphere. Space is a very dangerous environment and a difficult place to travel. These recent “cosmonauts” are brave people, but Duran-Gibson argues that they can hardly be considered the first citizens to have been in space.
Durant-Gibson says one of the most important questions remains unanswered: what counts as civilian spaceflight.
“There is uncertainty about exactly what civilian space travel means, believe it or not,” he said. “Is it enough to rise high into the Earth’s atmosphere? And there are different ideas about where outer space begins. Another factor is that some space authorities define citizen space travel as including only travel paid for by the astronaut. The most restrictive definition of space tourism is…