Make your reservations now. The space tourism industry is officially open for business, and tickets are going for a mere $20 million for a one-week stay in space. Despite reluctance from NASA, Russia made American businessman Dennis Tito the world's first space tourist. Tito flew into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket that arrived at the International Space Station on April 30, 2001. The second space tourist, South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth, took off aboard the Russian Soyuz on April 25, 2002, also bound for the ISS.

Lance Bass of 'N Sync was supposed to be the third to make the $20 million trip, but as of Sept. 3, 2002, Russia has called off his extraterrestrial vacation due to delays in payment. Probably the most incredible aspect of this proposed space tour is that NASA was in favor of it.

These trips are the beginning of what could be a lucrative 21st century industry. There are already several space tourism companies planning to build suborbital vehicles, orbital hotels and lunar cruise ships within the next two decades. These companies have invested millions, believing that the space tourism industry is on the verge of taking off.


Photo courtesy Space Island Group
Space hotels might be popular vacation spots in 20 years.

In 1997, NASA published a report concluding that selling trips to space to private citizens could be worth billions of dollars. A Japanese report supports these findings, and projects that space tourism could be a $10 billion per year industry within the two decades. The only obstacles to opening up space to tourists are the space agencies, who are concerned with safety and the development of a reliable, reusable launch vehicle.

If you've ever dreamed of going to space and doing what only a few hundred people have done, then read on. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, you'll learn about the spacecraft being designed as destinations for space tourists, and how you may one day have a chance to cruise through the solar system.