Affordable space travel not light years away

One NASA astronaut envisions holidays to the ISS by 2030...

Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, new project, SpaceShipTwo, testing, space travel

Image: Virgin Galactic

Retired NASA astronaut Donald Thomas has raised hopes that commercial space travel for the average punter in only a decade or two away.

The Ohioan, who retired in 2007, has predicted that it will only cost around €9,000 for a trip to the International Space Station (and back!) by 2030.

Currently, it would set you back to the tune of €200,000.

Thomas sees companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galatic as the way forward for commercial trips, with more companies joining the competition in the coming years.

Richard Branson's space project suffered a major setback in 2014, when test pilot Michael Alsbury was tragically killed onboard SpaceShipOne.

The California-based Virgin Galactic are back on track, however, as they gear up to launch SpaceShipTwo's new, safer model, VSS Unity.

If it passes extensive testing, it will offer the world's first commercial spaceflight programme.

In a statement last month, Virgin Galactic said:

"When we are confident we can safely carry our customers to space, we will start doing so.

"We feel incredibly honoured that our earliest paying customers already number more than the total number of humans who have ever been to space.

"Our first spaceflight with paying customers; our first flight full of research experiments; our first flight with a full complement of eight... the dozens of times we will fly the first ever astronaut from a given nation. Each of these will be exciting milestones in the history of space exploration".