Look out American space tourism pioneers Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson! China is coming after the growing market of luxury travellers interested in experiencing space travel.
China has announced its intentions of opening up its recently launched Tiangong space station for space tourism within the next decade. There are currently no concrete plans yet, but officials have said that people without formal astronaut training can enjoy orbital spaceflights within a decade.
The DailyMail reports that Yang Liwei, who became the first Chinese astronaut in 2003, said believes that tourists visiting Tiangong “is not a matter of technology but of demand” and that the space tourism ambitions "can be realised within a decade as long as there is such demand."
China is reportedly working on a reusable spacecraft that can take a maximum of seven tourists to the Tiangong space station.
Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's human spaceflight programme, also reaffirmed Yang’s sentiments that the Shenzhou spacecraft could be used to take paying passengers to Tiangong in future.
Tiangong, which means “Sky Palace”, was launched in April 2021. The space station will house three modules, including the Tianhe core module which is already in orbit, and two additional laboratories that’s currently being set up. Its structure is designed, much like the International Space Station (ISS), for modules to be added as needed at any given point in time.
It is still uncertain whether Tiangong’s tourists will stay in the existing Tianhe living module, or new modules will eventually be fitted to serve as living arrangements for consumers.
China's move into space tourism is expected to be a lucrative market for the country's swelling ranks of super-rich, which has continued to grow at a much faster pace compared to many other nations.