The Copernical Shift in Space Tourism

Ingle, M (2011), “The Copernical Shift in Space Tourism and its Implications for Tourism in the Great Karoo” South African Geographical Journal, Volume 93, Issue 1, 2011l p 104-118



With the widely anticipated launch of commercial suborbital space travel in the near future, space tourism is finally set to come into its own after decades of frustration. This article outlines the history of space tourism and describes how suborbital space travel differs from conventional space exploration. A key distinction is made between a space industry funded primarily by the public sector, and an industry that derives its revenues from the tourism-driven ‘space experience economy’. Recent legislation in the USA has paved the way for a space economy which is answerable to the dictates of private enterprise – hence the ‘Copernican shift’ in how space tourism is being conceptualised. The erosion of the hegemony exerted by traditional space industry players, such as NASA, has encouraged many high-profile private entrepreneurs to invest heavily in what amounts to a new space race – namely that of being first to market with a viable, safe, suborbital space tourism offering. One of the concomitants of the shift is the number of spaceports that is being constructed worldwide. This article argues that it is inevitable that southern Africa will come to require a custom-built spaceport and that the Great Karoo is ideally endowed to host such a facility. This should profoundly affect the development of tourism in the arid interior and holds out encouraging possibilities for socio-economic upliftment in the region.

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