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Guest: John Spencer; Topics: space tourism, The Space Tourism Society, earth tourism analogs, social profits compared to financial profits, space tourism careers and opportunities plus more.
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We welcomed John Spencer to the program to discuss all aspects of space tourism including the Space Tourism Society. Please note that there was a software recording glitch in the program. We lost the first 30-33 minutes of the program which included a monolog by our guest introducing the audience to his space tourism background and the history of The Space Tourism Society. I will do my best to make up for the missed introduction using my notes and the archive summary commentary. In addition, check out the pages of The Space Tourism Society website at https://spacetourismsociety.org. While all of the balance of the audio is present, the audio quality was not good. You can easily understand it, no problems there, but the recording software was clearly problematic for this end of the 2019 show. I apologize for these difficulties which have been resolved for the upcoming Space show programs.
The missing 30-33 minutes started with my asking John for a 101 type introduction to his space tourism credentials and The Space Tourism Society. To respond to this initial question, John presented an uninterrupted monolog about his background going back to the late 1970 period when he began his space work in his career with a focus on space architecture. To learn more about his individual background, please see the bio I have for John on The Space Show website: https://thespaceshow.com/guest/john-spencer. Much of the material we lost regarding his background is summarized in his current bio plus it is on The Space Tourism Society website.
John mentioned 1982 as a pivotal year for him as even back then he saw space tourism as a key player in developing and exploring the solar system. John jumped forward to the Dennis Tito space tourism trip to the ISS in 2001 as the first ever space tourist. The Tito flight was full of controversy and significance. John spent time going over the significance and history of the Tito flight, from the Russian perspective, NASA, and Space Adventures, the commercial company that got the contracts and made it all happen. To learn more about the Dennis Tito space tourism mission, just Google Dennis Tito space tourism or ISS or NASA and you will find more information than you could process in a lifetime. After spending time talking about Dennis Tito, John mentioned the only repeat space tourist so far, Charles Simonyi. John explained that Russia stopped taking space tourists to the ISS around 2009 plus he referenced a waiting list for people wanting to go. Stopping had much to do with the US ending the space shuttle trips to the ISS.
John turned his monolog attention to Earth tourism analogs. He spoke about the cruise ship analog, the super yacht, and the mega yacht, all as Earth analogs to space tourism. He explained why these ocean ships were analogs, sharing with us what they had in common with space tourism. Commonalities included wealthy owners and users as they would be similar to the early space tourists. John then spent time explaining why space tourism using a Soyuz was so profitable for Russia. He estimated that a space tourist on the Soyuz was equal to about a 98% profit or $200 million in cash flow which Russia badly needed. The Russian profit discussion led to John talking about making a profit with the space tourism industry.
John suggested there were two types of profits associated with space tourism. The first was the traditional return on investment profit. The second profit was what he termed a social profit. A social profit would include pride, preside, national goals and aspiration, inspiration and such. A rough equivalent of why nations do flagship space missions.
After talking about profits, John said that today, space tourism represented a renaissance of opportunity. He spent time explaining what he meant by this as he talked about suborbital probably happening in 2020 with Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. John brought up lunar tourism opportunities, a space lunar hotel, then he talked about the Bigelow module at the ISS and what it meant for space tourism. The SpaceX upcoming lunar flyby mission was referenced, especially since he said occupants would see Earthrise which was the most famous picture ever taken from space.
John moved on to talk about three key areas and space exploration with a focus on the triangle model. I'm sorry we lost this discussion. That said, he talked about a step approach from suborbital to orbital and on to lunar. John introduced us to another key element, balloon space tourism with World View.
Before the missing 30-33 minute segment ended, listener Josh in Denver asked him when he thought space tourism prices would be reduced. John had much to say on this subject but briefly, he said the prices would not be reduced for a long time. From here, he talked about space tourism employment opportunities including being a chef, working in space hotel services, and even attending a newly established training or space academy for training space workers. In fact, he said there would be two ways to go to space. First, one would go as a tourist. Next, one might go as a space tourism service employee. As we were leaving the missing segment, Alexandra asked John for his thoughts on the 2020 space tourism timeline. John talked about suborbital with Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic suggesting both would start in the new year. Before moving on, he quickly pointed to SpaceX and Boeing going to the ISS and spinning off orbital tourism with their vehicles. He talked about the upcoming Bigelow space hotels and the fact that the Russians wanted to do more. He then said the Chinese have so far not shown as much interest in space tourism but that he thought the interest would develop. Finally, John mentioned Earth experiences and his Mars Word Las Vegas Venture for about $2 billion. You can get most of what John had to say about Mars World by visiting the website, http://marsworld.com/team/john-spencer. John also gave a shout out for the upcoming Space Tourism Society conference to be held in Los Angeles on April 28, 2020. You can find out more about the event at the Space Tourism Society website, www.meetup.com/EverydaySpacer-com/events/263958897.
Going forward with this summary, we will be reporting on the rest of the interview which is present on the archive recording though with less than quality audio. However,100% of the discussion is there for you to hear so the balance of this summary will be more like a typical Space Show program summary.
John spent some time talking about Los Angeles as the focal point for commercial space and space tourism. He sounded like a member of the LA Chamber of Commerce. He suggested that people wanting to be involved in space tourism, NewSpace, commercial space move to Los Angeles as the opportunity was there. Let us know your thoughts on this idea by posting them on the blog.
John was asked to compare space settlement and space tourism. He had much to say on the topic and said that tourism was an enabler for settlement. Don't miss all his comments regarding space settlement. John also used this question to mention that space tourism was coming into its own because of available financing. He mentioned examples including Club Med and his upcoming Las Vegas Mars World project. John then promoted space sports, lunar resorts and the idea of the Lunar Village.
John was asked about Martian space tourism a few times during the program. He talked about other Mars missions, the rovers, even going the Martian moons which he said were also not space tourism destinations. Don't miss his Mars comments now and later in the discussion.
I brought up a Dec. 25, 2019 critical of space tourism article on Politico regarding safety and oversight issues. John said he was somewhat familiar with it but had not read it. When I mentioned specific issues from the article, he had good replies to what the author was talking about. If you want to see the article, you can find it here: www.politico.com/news/2019/12/25/space-tourists-safety-rules-089681. Before moving to the next topic, John promoted The Space Tourism Conference set for April 28, in Los Angeles at the Plaza Hotel. He talked about participants and conference sponsors plus the history of why the chosen date was April 28. The conference also appeared in his concluding marks.
Before the program ended, a listener asked John about there being an age limit for space tourism. In his response, John mentioned World View, the high altitude balloon space tourism company in that they might have a different age limit than the other space tourism organizations.
Moving on, I asked John if he saw anyway his optimistic view of space tourism could be derailed. John addressed some safety and risk taking issues, economic issues, and other things that might happen to derail space tourism for 2020 and beyond. Still, he did strongly say that 2020-2029 would be known as Our Space Decade.
Listener Phil asked him if government changes due to the election or the termination of the Artemis program would negatively impact space tourism. John said no but listen to all of what he said in response to Phil. Linda sent in a note asking more about Mars for a space tourism destination. Listen to why John did not think Mars was a tourism destination. I then asked John what he thought of point to point travel for a space tourism enhancer. He saw point to point as transportation and not really part of space tourism. I then asked him about orbital LEO space tourism around the equator, thus low radiation and fairly close to Earth. John jumped into a climate change and space tourism discussion but eventually said he would defer to Al Globus on the equatorial space hotel idea.
John offered a summary and promoted the ISDC and NSS for the upcoming Frisco, TX event the end of May 2020. Be sure you post your comments/questions on our blog for this show. Once again, we apologize for the missing minutes and lower audio quality of this program.
You can reach John Spencer through me or The Space Tourism Society website.