LOL! If you have the bucks, you have the right stuff.
Do You Have What It Takes to Go Into Space? (Probably)
With pioneering companies like Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic and XCOR vying to launch average folks skyward, it seems like almost anyone can have the right stuff.
Surprisingly, the baseline medical requirements for commercial space travel are lenient—and that’s true whether you’re taking a “suborbital” flight that barely leaves the earth’s atmosphere (as Virgin Galactic and XCOR’s flights will do) or going all the way to the International Space Station (a trip offered by a company called Space Adventures).
According to a Virgin Galactic spokesperson, the “vast majority” of the general population will be able to fly with the company, even those with “heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, joint replacements, lung disease and other conditions,” assuming proper precautions are taken. XCOR participants must pass a basic physical exam, like that required to acquire a pilot’s license, but the company welcomes all, as long as passengers fit in the seat and can open the spacecraft door in case of an emergency on the ascent or descent. (You also can’t be heavier than 250 pounds if you want the XCOR spacecraft to reach its maximum altitude of 100 km) And although the FAA requires that commercial spaceflight participants be 18 or older, neither service has a maximum age limit. Virgin Galactic has provisionally cleared customers in their 80s.
The much more involved Space Adventures’ Orbital Spaceflight program, which lets civilians hitch a ride aboard the Russian Soyuz to spend 10 to 14 days in the International Space Station, is equally inclusive in its approach. Although passengers are screened for health issues that would be difficult to treat in space, “most people in good health will qualify for spaceflight,” said Space Adventures president Tom Shelley. And there is a precedent for civilians making it safely to space and back again. The company took its first passenger, Dennis Tito, then 61, up to the space station back in 2001. Seven others have since then, including Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil. British soprano Sarah Brightman, next in line, is scheduled to go up next year.
Besides Space Adventures, Virgin Galactic and XCOR are the other main ventures focused specifically on taking passengers to space. ( Elon Musk ’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos ’s Blue Origin are concentrating on commercial payloads). Virgin Galactic has done test flights and plans to take passengers up in 2015. XCOR says its test flights will begin early next year, with passengers going up as soon as next winter.