In April 2001 Californian Dennis Tito became the pioneer space tourist when he hopped into a Russian Soyuz capsule at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, arriving at the International Space Station two days later. As of 2009 six others had followed Tito into space, each paying over $20 million. The Russians have been using the reliable Soyuz capsule for decades.
More affordable sub-orbital flights are in the planning stages by several companies. The arbitrary boundary of space is 62 miles altitude, which was reached by SpaceShip One in 2004, Piloted by the first commercial astronaut. The larger SpaceShip 2 is being sponsored by Virgin Galactic, a division of the Richard Branson Virgin Group. Virgin Galactic plans to be the first to send tourists into space, six at a time, and thousands have already signed up. Initial fares will be around $200,000, which is expected to drop once they get going. Unlike the space shuttle ground launch, SpaceShip 2 will surpass 62 miles altitude after being launched by a large mother airplane at about 50,000 feet. SpaceShip 2 will then glide back to earth, powered by a single rocket motor.
Aerospace giant Boeing has decided to get into the space tourism business, and will use Cape Canaveral as a base for sightseeing missions to the International Space Station. Boeing is estimating a launch for the venture in 2015. On the drawing board is a space capsule big enough for seven occupants. This would be the first space tourism venture that will launch from the USA. A company called Space Adventures, which has been promoting the Russian launches, would promote for Boeing, saying they are ready to discuss the venture with future space tourists.
This follows a proposal by the White House to privatize the astronaut missions. The future of NASA may lie in promoting commercial ventures in space.