Can I breathe a sigh of relief? Yes I can. Only a couple of years ago it was going to set anyone back a cool $20 million US to hop aboard a rocket to the International Space Station. Had I started saving. Yes! Just like those old Christmas accounts at the bank, I religiously began stuffing my pennies in a sock knowing that in a millennium or so I would be blasting off into the outer regions of our atmosphere or ionosphere or somewhere at the outer limits of our globe. Back then a potential space tourist needed to submit to medicals, training, eating and bathroom protocols, spacesuit adjustment and cultural sensitivity indoctrination to cope with Russian cosmonauts. Not only that but one couldn't explore the American section without an invitation or escort (note: if an Arizonian was in charge a green card was mandatory). Now, for next to nothing you can go sub-orbital as long as you promise not to puke on Virgin spacecraft leather seats. Of course the journey will be a quickie. Straight up until you hit the glass ceiling and straight back down to Earth. No spacesuit, no docking station, no squeegee food, no baggies for bodily fluids - please take advantage of the loo prior to boarding - and no camaraderie on the orbital science station. And remember when you alight from the taxi at the spaceport to converse pleasantly with the driver plus present a generous tip, just in case Sir Richard Branson has assumed his cabbie impersonation trick once again.
Photo by Flickr user Mike Rollinger used under Creative Commons