Space Adventures, a company that hasÂ made millions selling orbital joyrides to people worth billions, is trying toÂ ensureÂ that its wealthy clients get a bit more respect.
The Virginia company that pioneered space tourism is rebranding itsÂ eliteÂ clientele as “space explorers,” pointing to the experiments that they conduct while vacationing aboard the International Space Station. In the process, the companyÂ is tryingÂ to leaveÂ its labelÂ as a “space tourism”Â outfit behind.
â€œSpace tourism isnâ€™t the right word for what we do,â€ Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson told Popular Mechanics. â€œItâ€™s something more. What weâ€™re doing is opening a new frontier. … Weâ€™re no longer exclusively a space tourism company, weâ€™re a space mission company.â€
Space Adventures kicked off its rebranding effort in earnest last week with the announcement that it would begin charting Soyuz flights toÂ ISS beginning in 2011. The company currently flies tourists as the third passenger onÂ regularly scheduled, government financedÂ missions to the orbital outpost. The charter flights would be commercially funded, carrying a commander and two paying customers.
Google Founder Sergey Brin will likely be aboard the inaugural 2011 flight. He invested $5 million in Space Adventures, money that serves as a downpayment on a flight and makes him the charter member of the brand new Orbital Mission Explorerâ€™s Circle. This exclusive club will have only seven members.
The rebranding effort has been ongoing for some time. Space Adventures’ client Anousheh Ansari, who flew to the space station, gave an interview to Space Future back in April in which she bristled at the label of “space tourist.” Ansari believes the six months of training made her more than just a tourist, even though she is not a professional astronaut.