Space tourism from UAE soon to be as normal as taking international flight

Going to space will soon be as normal as flying by airplane, says top astronaut

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by

Angel Tesorero

Published: Wed 29 Nov 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 29 Nov 2023, 7:44 AM

Space travel and tourism will become more accessible as more companies — particularly those in the aviation industry — will offer services to bring people on sub-orbital flights.

This was the assessment made by a senior high official of Dubai-based carrier Emirates during a one-off special flight on Tuesday, celebrating the UAE’s space initiatives ahead of its 52nd National Day, and Sultan AlNeyadi’s successful return from a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where he conducted not only numerous scientific research, but also recorded the first spacewalk for the Arab world.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on board an A380 during flight EK2641, Adel Al Redha, Emirates Chief Operating Officer, said: “The more we explore to know more about space, the more people would like to take that journey to space.”

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Photo: File

Experiencing weightlessness

Space tourism, also called personal spaceflight or commercial human spaceflight, is flying at an altitude higher than 100 km above sea level that is called the Kármán line, or the conventional boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space. At that altitude, passengers can experience weightlessness or near-zero gravity.

Al Redha did not categorically reply to a direct question by Khaleej Times if Emirates would venture into space tourism industry or is open to collaborate with current companies offering sub-orbital flights, but he underlined: “I would not be surprised in the near future to hear airline companies launching services for space travel.”

According to some market research, the global space tourism industry is expected to grow from $851.7 million in 2024 to $5.19 billion by 2034.

Al Rehda noted space tourism is niche segment for the aviation industry to give tourists the ability to become astronauts and experience suborbital space travel for recreational or business purposes.

He also noted the UAE is in the best position to actively promote space tourism, given the rapid development it has achieved in space exploration over the past few years. “The UAE has jumped fast in only few years to become a pioneer in space,” he underscored.

‘As normal as flying an aircraft’

In a related query about space tourism, AlNeyadi for his part said: “Space — overall — is open to everyone. So, I can see more people flying to space soon on a regular basis in the future.”

He also said going to space in the future would be like taking a plane now. “A hundred years ago, it seemed impossible to travel by plane, but now it’s very common. Same like in space flight, it seemed impossible to go to space but it became a reality. With more technological advancement, we can have space flight as normal as flying an aircraft,” AlNeyadi explained.

Shared vision and commitment

The special flight on Tuesday went over the UAE for two hours carrying senior officials, engineers, data scientists and staff from MBRSC. A special feature of the flight is the A380 plane emblazoned with a specially-designed astronaut decal “celebrating the UAE’s vision to build its capabilities in space exploration and aerospace innovation on the global stage.”

Also onboard flight EK2641 were Hazzaa AlMansoori, the first Emirati astronaut in space, and members of Expedition 69, who worked with AlNeyadi on ISS, namely: American astronauts Stephen Bowen, Woody Hoburg, and commander Frank Rubio, as well as Russian cosmonauts Andrey Fedyaev, Sergey Prokopyev, and Dmitri Petelin.

Salem Humaid AlMarri, MBRSC director general, noted the special flight is a symbol of “shared vision and commitment to pioneering and recognising the contributions of the aerospace sector".

“As we look to the future, MBRSC remains dedicated to driving the UAE and the region towards new frontiers in space exploration and innovation. With our leadership's futuristic vision, we are ready to uncover new discoveries, achieve milestones, and further enhance our nation's global presence in the field of space.”

Al Redha replied: “We are honoured to celebrate the successful mission and return of Dr AlNeyadi, as well as the ground-breaking work of MBRSC to propel the UAE’s flourishing space sector… Together, we will continue to support the UAE’s vision to unveil new knowledge and discover new horizons, both on and off planet.”

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Angel Tesorero

Published: Wed 29 Nov 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 29 Nov 2023, 7:44 AM

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