Space is getting crowded. In addition to NASA’s Artemis and China’s Tianwen-1, private spaceflight is — finally — almost here. Once the preserve of science fiction, soon people with no formal astronaut training will be able to buy a ticket on a space shuttle and go into space, much like we buy a seat on a plane today.
In the next six years, five missions are set to take place which will change the nature of travel forever.
Here's everything you need to know about these upcoming missions, including when they are supposed to take place, where they will go, and, perhaps most importantly, who will be traveling on them into space.
5. Tom Cruise is going to the International Space Station
Oh yes, you read that right.
Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman, who previously worked with Cruise on the film Edge of Tomorrow, are supposedly going to travel into space — to the International Space Station — alongside private spaceflight company Axiom Space’s vice-president (and former NASA astronaut) Michael López-Alegría.
Cruise has been linked to López-Alegría's company Axiom before. Axiom wants to build commercial module add-ons to the space station.
Aside from the three confirmed passengers, there is one seat still empty.
What space company will take Tom Cruise to space?
It’s unclear how, exactly, Cruise will get to the space station, but we do have clues. A report in NME suggested Cruise will be a part of a crew going into space onboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon shuttle. This seems to have been based on a September 2020 tweet by a Twitter account called "@SpaceShuttleAlmanac."
What will Tom Cruise do in space?
Befitting of his action-hero status, Cruise will shoot a movie in space, according to reports. What movie Cruise will shoot in space is unclear, but it will not be related to his popular Mission: Impossible franchise.
When will Cruise go to space?
Reports suggest the Cruise mission may launch to the International Space Station as soon as October 2021, a similar timeline to Inspiration4, another private space mission (and number four on this list).
4. Jared Isaacman is going to space with Inspiration4
Who is going on Inspiration4?
The only known crew member on Inspiration4, at the time of writing, is Jared Isaacman, who has the dual title of “Commander and Benefactor” of this private space mission.
Isaacman is a billionaire and founder of payment-technology company Shift4. He is also a jet pilot.
One seat on this shuttle will go to a person affiliated with St. Jude’s Children's Research Hospital. But the two other seats are open to the public.
One of these seats will be won by a person who has donated to St. Jude’s, or has a connection to the hospital.
The other seat will be won by an entrepreneur who uses Shift4’s website builder, Shift4Shop, to launch a business.
Which space company is involved with Inspiration4?
This mission is being chartered with Elon Musk's SpaceX. Inspiration4 will be flying on a Falcon 9 rocket, and its crew will be made comfortable inside the space company's Crew Dragon capsule.
What will Inspiration4 do in space?
According to Inspiration4’s website, the ship’s cargo will hold scientific research “dedicated to microgravity research and experimentation.”
The website also promises “experiments designed to expand our knowledge of the universe,” but it doesn’t get any more specific than that.
When will Inspiration4 launch into space?
The exact date is undetermined, but here's the timeline we do have:
- The competition to win seats on Inspiration4 closes at the end of February.
- The crew will be announced at the end of March.
- Inspiration4 will launch “no earlier than Q4 2021,” which begins October 1, 2021.
3. AX-1: The first private flight to the International Space Station
So far, only astronauts associated with state space agencies have travelled to the International Space Station. But soon, private citizens will visit, too.
Who is involved in AX1?
The first private flight to the International Space Station will include Axiom vice president Michael López-Alegría as commander, American entrepreneur Larry Connor as pilot, Canadian investor Mark Pathy, and financier Eytan Stibbe, of Israel.
As a former NASA astronaut with over 250 days already logged in space, López-Alegría is perhaps the most experienced of the four. Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has also been named as the back-up commander for the mission, and John Shoffner, an entrepreneur and pilot much like Isaacman, is the back-up pilot.
Which space company is involved with AX1?
Again, SpaceX wins the day. AX-1 will fly on a Falcon 9 rocket, and, again, its crew will be inside a Crew Dragon capsule.
What will AX1 do in space?
AX1 crew members will conduct a number of scientific experiments in space an onboard the International Space Station.
For example, Connor will collaborate with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic “on research projects,” according to a Washington Post report. Connor will also communicate with students back on Earth who attend the Dayton Early College Academy, a school with grades 7-12.
Pathy, according to the report, is working with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital to identify health-related research projects he could undertake in space.
Stibbe plans to “conduct scientific experiments,” in collaboration with Israeli researchers, as well as “undertake educational activities” for Israeli youth, the report says.
When will AX1 launch to the International Space Station?
AX-1 is scheduled to launch “no earlier” than January 2022.
2. Yusaku Maezawa's #dearMoon project
What is the #dearMoon project?
The #dearMoon project is the brainchild of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. According to Forbes, Maezawa is worth some $2.1 billion.
In this mission, Maezawa and a crew will fly around the Moon.
Who is involved in the #dearMoon project?
Aside from Maezawa, no other flight members have been announced, but Maezawa has perviously said he wants to go to the Moon with artists. Maezawa is an art collector.
The mission’s website suggests a painter, musician, film director, and a fashion designer will join Maezawa. Maezawa made an offer to director Damien Chazelle during an interview regarding Chazelle’s 2018 film about Apollo 11, First Man. A stunned Chazelle promised to discuss the invitation with his wife, but his involvement is not confirmed.
For a brief moment, Maezawa seemed to suggest his girlfriend would come on the trip, but that idea has since been taken off the table, according to reports.
Which space company will take Maezawa to the Moon?
You guessed it. Maezawa paid SpaceX an undisclosed amount to become the first private tourist to fly around the Moon.
#dearMoon will use the company’s next-generation Starship and Super Heavy Rocket for its trip.
What will Maezawa do in space?
The artists onboard the #dearMoon project will use the trip as artistic inspiration for an exhibition to be displayed on Earth, according to Maezawa.
Presumably, these artists will create a number of works based on their trip, although that is unclear.
When will Maezawa launch to the Moon?
#dearMoon plans to launch in 2023, although the timeline depends on the development of Musk's Starship, which is not yet out of testing.
1. Space Hero: Reality TV in space
What is Space Hero?
Space Hero is a planned reality TV show where the winner gets a ticket to fly to the International Space Station. The TV show was originally touted by Deadline. The show's contestants will have to go through a series of challenges to see who will win the contest — and, ostensibly, blast off on a rocket, according to the report.
Who is involved with Space Hero?
The contestants are not known, but the media company behind the show, helpfully called Space Hero, has reported they will be civilians with a passion for space, but no formal astronaut training.
The company's Instagram page holds information on how to apply to be on the show.
Which space company will take Space Hero to the International Space Station?
According to the reports, the company has secured a seat onboard a 2023 flight to the International Space Station.
Presumably, this flight will take place on board a SpaceX Falcon 9, although this is unconfirmed.
What will Space Hero do in space?
According to Deadline, the winner of Space Hero will have their work cut out for them. Before they get to liftoff, the "Space Hero" will have to compete in a series of challenges to test their “physical, mental and emotional strength.”
The idea is that audiences around the world will vote on their favorite contestant, and an eventual winner will be selected.
Marty Pompadur, the head of Space Hero Inc, said in a statement the show aims to “reinvent the reality TV category by creating a multi-channel experience that offers the biggest prize ever, to the biggest audience possible.”
The prize is apparently a 10-day stay onboard the International Space Station. The company is “in discussion” with NASA on potential educational elements of the trip, according to the report.
When will Space Hero launch to space?
According to their social media, Space Hero, the Earth-bound TV show, will launch in 2021. An exact date is not determined, however.
If the ratings hold, then the winner of Space Hero will apparently take off at a time in 2023.