Today's final voyage for Endeavor marks the second-to-last government-funded launch as NASA completes the phasing out of its shuttle program. From now on, travel into the cosmos will be strictly for the ultra-rich. Virginia-based Space Adventures, Ltd. is the world's leading private space exploration company and the only company currently providing opportunities for actual private spaceflight and space tourism today. For the last ten years, the company has been brokering rides to the International Space Station through a partnership with Russia's space agency, which provides the Soyuz spacecraft for the flights. A trip for two in the luxury spaceship that will orbit the moon costs $150 million per person.
In a recent press release marking the ten-year of anniversary of Dennis Tito's inaugural private space flight, Space Adventures estimated that by 2020 approximately 140 more private individuals will have launched to orbital space. These participants would include private individuals, corporate, university and non-profit researchers, lottery winners and journalists. Destinations would include the International Space Station, commercial space stations and orbital free-flys. The press release also included the announcement that the company will be adding an extra module to the three-person Soyuz vehicle, which will make the trip more comfortable for the two passengers, who will be accompanied by a Russion mission commander in the third seat.
According to a Space.com report on Fox News, Space Adventures has already signed up one passenger for the maiden voyage, nine-figure price tag notwithstanding. If it secures a second customer, the mission could launch within three to five years. We need that second contract for the mission to go ahead, said Space Adventures president Tom Shelley told Fox News. But we're confident that we'll be able to make an announcement about that mission later this year.