A comprehensive and detailed study of interest in public space travel amongst affluent Americans indicates significant numbers would pay big bucks for the experience, a new poll by Zogby International reveals.
Commissioned by Futron Corporation, a Maryland-based aerospace consulting group, the poll was designed to measure level of interest in public space travel, the willingness to pay for specific space travel options, and an array of other relevant information concerning lifestyle choices, spending patterns and attitudes towards risk.
Zogby International conducted telephone interviews of 450 U.S. adults whose yearly incomes exceed $250,000 and/or net worth exceeds $1 million. All calls were made from Zogby International headquarters in Utica, N.Y., from January 6 through January 27, 2002. The margin of sampling error is ± 4.7%. The survey participants were confined to those who could at least potentially afford the high prices of this leisure activity (which is expected to cost around $100,000 for the lowest cost package).
Results were obtained for sub-orbital flights, with the space tourists being rocketed 50 miles into space, at an assumed cost of $100,000, and experiencing much the same kind of 15-minute experience of exhilaration, weightlessness and seeing the Earth below, as did Alan Shepard, America's first astronaut. Up to 19% of those interviewed indicated that they would be likely to take part in such an experience when it becomes available to the public, assuming they could meet the medical and other requirements.
In the case of two-week orbital flights to an orbiting space station, a surprising 7% of those wealthy individuals polled said they would be willing to pay today's price tag of $20 million for the experience that so far only two space tourists, including Mark Shuttleworth who recently returned from orbit, have obtained. The figure approaches 16% if prices come down to a "mere" $5 million a ride.
Futron Corporation points out that only a small proportion of even these wealthy individuals can actually afford orbital flights at today's prices, and furthermore, space tourists would have to meet the medical requirements for the few seats available today.The only current destination is the International Space Station which is crewed by working astronauts; a near majority (48%) of respondents say the possible existence of a new commercial facility specifically designed for space tourists would make them more likely to take an orbital trip, while many (61 %) would prefer to have the opportunity to be trained and fly from the US, rather than having to do so in Russia, which is the only option today.
Other data in the survey, which will be used by Futron Corporation in developing market forecasts for public space travel, includes reasons for wanting to go into space, attitudes to risk, availability of time for space flight training, price elasticity of demand information, and vacation and lifestyle characteristics of the surveyed group.
Derek Webber, Program Manager at Futron Corporation, said: "We are very satisfied with the survey.This has been a thorough piece of quality research conducted for us by Zogby International.For the first time we have a sound, statistically valid basis for market predictions regarding public space travel.The work has been based on carefully described missions, fully informed respondents, realistic prices and the buying patterns of wealthy individuals.We are still analyzing the wealth of detailed information contained in the survey responses, but are certain that the findings will be of significant benefit to those entrepreneurs and space industry professionals cing the groundwork for the coming space tourism business."