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  • Context (HT): Blue Origin successfully launched its Space Tourism rocket.
  • Space tourism is human space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes.
  • It is a commercial activity of providing travel to space for non-professional astronauts.
  • Types of Space Tourism:
    1. Suborbital tourism involves flights that travel above the Karman line, the internationally recognized boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, at an altitude of about 100 kms.
    2. Orbital tourism involves flights that travel into Earth orbit at an altitude of over 400 kms.
  • Notable space tourism modules: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard.

Potential of Space Tourism

  • Economic Growth: The global space tourism industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 37% from 2022-30 with the market expected to be worth at least $3 billion by 2030.
  • Accelerate R&D: Revenue generated from space tourism can be reinvested in space research, supporting scientific endeavors and furthering our understanding of the universe.
  • Expanding Earth’s resource base by mining and extracting resources from celestial bodies which could become a viable commercial endeavor, thereby reducing strain on terrestrial resources.
  • Technological advancements: E.g. advancements in space suit design can lead to improvements in hazardous environment apparel on Earth.
  • Spiral effect: It can inspire the younger generation to pursue careers in STEM fields, spacecraft design, and propulsion systems leading to technological advancements in space exploration industries.

Challenges Associated with Space Tourism

  • Safety issues: E.g., the accidents of Space Shuttle Challenger (1986) and Space Shuttle Columbia (2003) highlighted the criticality of safety measures and risk management in space travel.
  • Costly affair: It is an expensive venture accessible only to the wealthier sections leading to social inequity and elitism.
  • Risk of Kessler syndrome due to higher volume of space debris posing risk to both space tourists and existing satellites.
  • Environmental Impact: Soot or black carbon that emerges from rocket exhaust accumulates in the stratosphere and may stay in the stratosphere over decades, thus, accentuating the climate crisis.
  • Regulatory challenges: Issues of Passenger rights, liabilities, and airspace sovereignty remains a grey area at the international level.

ISRO’s Space Tourism Module

  • It is a suborbital space tourism vehicle being developed by ISRO.
  • It is designed to carry up to 6 passengers to an altitude of 100 kilometers.
  • It is based on ISRO’s PSLV rocket and is expected to be operational by 2030.
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