The launch of SpaceX’s Inspiration4, the first-ever all-civilian flight, has put space travel on the brain for many as of late. "Space tourism is something many of us never thought would become possible during our lifetime, but now it seems it’s the next big thing, so it’s not surprising that there is a universal fascination with it," says Sophia Mendel, ValuePenguin staff writer for credit cards and travel rewards.
To coincide with the inaugural space tourism mission, as well as the NASA rocket launch on Oct. 16, ValuePenguin surveyed more than 2,000 Americans about their views on space tourism. The main takeaway? While about half of Americans want to travel to space, only 19% are willing to shell out $100,000 or more to make this dream a reality.
Keep reading for more insight into how Americans feel about space travel — especially when it comes to paying for the adventure of a lifetime.
- 49% of Americans want to travel to space. Men are more interested in space travel than women (56% versus 44%), while interest in space tourism decreases with age (63% of Gen Zers versus 38% for baby boomers).
- 28% of both men and Gen Zers would choose a free trip to space over being debt-free. Among all consumers, 23% opted for a trip to space rather than the ability to wipe out their debt.
- Reality check: Of those consumers who want to travel to space, just 19% would shell out $100,000 or more to make it happen — and even that might not be enough. Seats on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo are estimated to start at a whopping $250,000 per person.
- 60% of Americans agree that space travel should be accessible for everyone, not just those who can afford the exorbitant costs. On a similar note, 41% don’t think billionaires should be spending so much money on space travel.
- About 1 in 4 (24%) don’t think space tourism is ethical. For example, some scientists fear that frequent space travel could give way to climate change, harming the environment through a high rate of emissions-per-passenger, as well as soot released by the rockets.
Americans eye space travel after recent rocket launches
In light of recent events, it’s no wonder so many of us have stars in our eyes. While nearly half of Americans (49%) have a desire to travel to space, more men than women are eager to explore the great unknown (56% of men versus 44% of women). As Mendel explains, she’s not exactly shocked by this data: "It’s not entirely surprising that men report more of a desire to go to space, as science fiction has traditionally been dominated by male interest."
Age also plays a factor in the desire to go to space, with older generations wanting to stay put on planet Earth. While 63% of Gen Zers want to go to space, only 38% of baby boomers said the same. Mendel thinks this younger generation is more open to new experiences than the older generations.
"It’s possible Gen Z is most interested in space travel because it’s something new and exciting that’s happening during their lifetime," Mendel says. "It’s expanding the possibilities of what has previously been possible."
So, why are some people so eager to go to space while others are happy to stay home? The majority of those who didn’t want to go to space said it was because they simply were not interested in the endeavor (54%). Unsurprisingly, the potential risks also played a role with, 39% saying it’s dangerous and 29% reporting feeling too scared.
Space travel is expensive, but some think the debt is worth it
When you consider how expensive train and plane tickets are, it’s not all that surprising that the cost of space travel is unimaginable for most people. For both Virgin Galactic's Space and Blue Origin's New Shepard, passengers typically spent between $250,000 and $500,000 to secure their seat.
That’s a pretty penny most people can’t afford to pay even if they truly did desire to go to space. Our survey found that the majority of consumers are interested in taking a free trip to space (34%) — but only 19% would be willing to spend at least $100,000 to make that trip happen. Of course, household income plays a big role in whether or not someone considers the experience worth a six-figure price tag: Among prospective space travelers with a six-figure household income, 33% would spend at least $100,000 on space travel.
Still, Mendel is optimistic that one day, space travel will be more within reach and that the price will eventually come down.
"I think eventually the cost of traveling to space will decrease," Mendel notes. "Once the novelty wears off and people figure out how to make the actual cost of space travel cheaper, it will become more accessible to average consumers."
For some, the steep cost is well worth it. Almost a quarter (21% ) of consumers reported they would be willing to take on debt in order to travel to space; for Gen Zers, this figure skyrockets to 32%.
Consumers are split on the ethics of space tourism
The idea of civilians traveling to space just for fun is an exciting prospect — but for some, it raises ethical concerns. Around a quarter of people (24%) don’t believe that space tourism is an ethical endeavor for our society to undertake.
Some Americans are uneasy with the fact that only the extremely wealthy can afford to travel to space right now, with 60% believing that space travel should be accessible for everyone, not just those who can afford the exorbitant costs. Similarly, 41% don’t think that billionaires should be spending such large sums of money on space travel.
The potential environmental impact of sending tourists into space is also a concern. Because the impact of space tourism is still not quite understood, some scientists are worried about effects on the climate from frequent space travel, suspecting that harm may come to the environment through the high rates of emissions that occur with each trip and the soot released by the rockets.
Alternatives for space travel enthusiasts
"While space travel isn’t currently available to most consumers, there are plenty of alternative experiences that can make you feel closer to the cosmos," Mendel says. "Even just a visit to your local planetarium can help educate you about what is known about outer space."
Here are a few fun suggestions that can help you get your space fix without having to pay that six figure price tag:
- Epcot’s Mission: SPACE. On your next trip to the Sunshine State, make a visit to Epcot’s Mission: SPACE at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., for some major thrills. Next, grab a bite to eat at the all-new Space 220 Restaurant, which makes diners feel like they’re having a meal in a faraway galaxy, thanks to the space-like views out every window.
- National Air and Space Museum. If you prefer museums over theme parks, head to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where you can learn more about the history of space travel and check out some impressive artifacts. Make sure to grab some astronaut ice cream in the gift shop on your way out.
- Kennedy Space Center. To learn more about how astronauts train for their big journeys into space, you can’t miss the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
- Space Center Houston. For those living closer to the Lone Star State, a road trip to Texas’ Space Center Houston is a must. The NASA Tram Tour stops by the famous Apollo Mission Control Center — a sight space enthusiasts won’t want to miss.
- Fantasyland Hotel. If you want and outer space experience and an international getaway, consider Canada — in particular, a stay at the Fantasyland Hotel’s space-themed room in Edmonton, Alberta.
- Your local planetarium. For a super cost-effective option, see if your city has a local planetarium you can visit — no travel required.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,050 U.S. consumers from Sept. 14 to Sept. 21, 2021. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.
We defined generations as the following ages in 2021:
- Generation Z: 18 to 24
- Millennial: 25 to 40
- Generation X: 41 to 55
- Baby boomer: 56 to 75
While the survey also included consumers from the silent generation (defined as those 76 and older), the sample size was too small to include findings related to that group in the generational breakdowns.