Flowers are bursting forth from the earth, birds are tending to newly hatched young and folks everywhere are planning vacations. It’s difficult not to spend time gazing at the brilliantly green budding trees from an office window while daydreaming of that annual escape from life’s responsibilities.
In a couple of years, the list of potential vacation venues is predicted to expand. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, space tourism could be available by 2014. The idea is a bit intimidating to me. I already feel pressure to visit all the amazing places on Earth. Now, I’ve got to add outer space to the list of places I haven’t been.
Lots of folks glue world maps to cork boards and stick brightly colored push pins in the locations they’ve already traveled. I suppose my great grandchildren will have one cork board with a world map and another with a map of the galaxy. At this point in my life, I only need a map of North America and a few pins.
For the extremely wealthy who can afford space tourism in 2014, I believe it will include excursions to the outermost parts and just outside the Earth’s atmosphere on well-equipped plane-rocket hybrids. Of course, I’m speculating based on my rudimentary understanding of the aerospace article I read a couple of weeks ago.
I imagine these space rides will include offerings such as celestial body viewing and identification trips; zero gravity excursions; and Earth orbiting events. Now you know what to get the person who has everything. You also have another option for blowing those millions you’re destined to win in the lottery one day.
My mom, or Ma as I commonly refer to her, recently went on a bird-watching excursion with a friend. It was a Road Scholar trip during which they woke early to go out and observe hundreds of different birds. The same could be done from a luxury aerospace craft, but for identifying constellations as we once did in soon to-be-obsolete planetariums rather than birds flitting around sanctuaries in Florida.
Now, when I mentioned the prospect of space tourism to Ma, she was skeptical. She wanted to know if this would bring complimentary food back to air travel. You can’t even get a cookie on a flight from Charlotte to Louisiana without pulling out your wallet.
While Ma imagines something similar to airline travel, I conjure up a different scenario. It seems to me space travel would be like going on a cruise, since you’d have to stay aboard the craft from the time you take off until you return to Earth. Assuming I’m correct with this conjecture, the aerospace ships are going to need to be equipped with sleeping quarters, fine dining and/or buffets, a pool and a gift shop at the very minimum.
A fleet of what I now imagine to be plane-rocket-cruise ship hybrids must already be in development for the FAA to believe space tourism to be possible by 2014. I hope the red-tape powers that be have passport issues figured out by then, as well. Will we need an intergalactic passport? Will our global passports work? Can we get away with just bringing along a birth certificate and power bill that clearly states our home’s physical address?
I’m thinking of sending Ma on a zero gravity aerospace trip for her 80th birthday. That gives us quite a while to save up the money as well as nearly a decade for kinks in commercial aerospace travel to be identified and resolved. I’m also hoping the prices will come down by then.
Meanwhile, it would give Ma something to look forward to. It’s every woman’s dream, really, to head out into space and weigh NOTHING! Not since birth have people weighed so little. During a zero gravity excursion, one could eat nonstop at endless food buffets and never worry about putting on a pound. Well, until they weigh in back home. But who thinks of home while on vacation?
Not that Ma needs to worry about her weight. She walks everywhere, attends palates and eats healthy. She’d probably be more interested in an orbit event. I imagine such events to be marketed seasonally, such as one that circles the globe slowly and observes from space each country ringing in the new year.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to watch fireworks and other celebratory displays via high-powered telescopes from the vantage point of a spacecraft? Or witness a volcano erupting while safely observing from the mesosphere of Earth’s atmosphere? Think of the pictures we could post on Facebook during such a trip.
For spring break 2014, families need to think bigger when planning a getaway. And while everyone is shooting off to the stars, I’ll be enjoying the spring blooms from my front porch, sipping herbal tea and hoping my kids remember to text me from space.
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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of “Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville.” She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.