Boarding at Gate 3A: Flights to space

Boeing plans commercial passenger trips to the International Space Station.

By InvestorPlace Sep 15, 2010 1:53PM

Boeing (BA) wants you to take flight -- only instead of offering you an uncomfortable, bad-smelling seat on some airline's aging 747, the aerospace company is shooting for the stars.

Boeing has launched plans to connect commercial space flights to the International Space Station in its new CST-100 commercial passenger spacecraft. 

The only question is whether you have to take off your moon boots to get through the TSA screening line.

Boeing plans to have its new seven-person spaceships carrying passengers into Earth's orbit by 2015. The aircraft manufacturer has teamed up with private space tourism company Space Adventures to sell seats on the flights, fitting in well with NASA's goal to have private companies handle commercial space flight.

Space Adventures, founded in 1998 by Eric Anderson, has already taken a handful of civilians with deep pockets into space. The company has flown seven clients on orbital space flights using different models of the Russian-made Soyuz spacecrafts.

The company also began offering high-atmosphere flights, letting passengers experience zero gravity without taking them into Earth's orbit. Boeing's plans would actually make for the first space flights on ships built specifically for untrained civilian passengers.

A number of private entities have announced plans to begin space tourism programs over the past decade.

Virgin Group's Richard Branson famously announced Virgin Galactic in 2004. Virgin Galactic's primary goal was to offer suborbital, zero-gravity flights like Space Adventures' but using SpaceShipOne, the first privately manned ship to achieve suborbital flight.

The plan was to offer flights by 2007, but it was pushed back in anticipation of the development of SpaceShipTwo. That ship went into production in December 2009, and commercial service is now expected to begin in 2011, well before Boeing launches its competing service.

While Boeing and Space Adventures are still haggling on prices, previous trips to space have cost passengers about $45 million.

That's a pretty penny. But for people who have the cash, there is a possible competitor to the Boeing space flight plan --  a Russian-backed lunar mission with a ticket price of $100 million.

No word on whether the snack box or second bag will cost extra.

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