Space tourism already getting cheaper!

Space tourism may still be a few years from taking off (pun fully intended!) but competition is already bringing the price down dramatically. According to this story from MSNBC, a company known as Space Adventures has partnered with Armadillo Aerospace to make space tourism relatively affordable. In this case, “affordable” means $102,000, which is almost half the cost of rival Virgin Galactic’s proposed flights on SpaceShipTwo.

Unlike Virgin Galactic’s two-stage space plane design, Armadillo is developing a more traditional vertical launch system. Tourists will sit inside a capsule that will be propelled by a rocket 62 miles into the sky, taking them to the very edge of space. Once they reach that altitude, they’ll be treated to five minutes of weightlessness and a 360º view of the Earth below. The entire flight time will be less than an hour in length, but the price tag does include several days of training as well.

Space Adventures already has a track record for sending tourists into space. The company has partnered with the Russian Space Agency to send clients to the International Space Station, with several very rich travelers spending upwards of $35 million to take the journey. In those cases however, the space tourist actually spends several days living aboard the ISS.

Both Virgin Galactic and Armadillo are currently conducting tests on their flight systems, and while neither company knows when they’ll begin sending regular flights into space, most believe it won’t happen until 2012 or later. Who knows, by then there may be a third privately owned space tourism company that will be driving prices down even further.

So, what do you think? Would you pay $100,000 for a chance to go into orbit?