By Ron Miller
2021 has proven that you don’t have to be a NASA astronaut, or have one on board your rocket ship, to journey into space!
Credit: Virgin Galactic
July 11, 2021  - Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson, at right, with his crew, after a successful flight into space aboard the SpaceShipTwo.
Credit: Blue Origin
July 20, 2021 - Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos took his crew up in his New Shepard rocket ship. With him was Oliver Daemen, 18 - the youngest ever person to fly into space and Wally Funk, 82 - the oldest person ever to fly into space.
Credit: SpaceX
September 21, 2021 Inspiration4, under the command of entrepreneur
Jared Isaacman, was the first all-civilian crew to orbit the Earth. They did it in a SpaceX Dragon capsule. On board was Hayley Arceneaux, 29 - the youngest person ever to circle our planet in space.
One of the threads connecting the recent Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX missions is the idea of space tourism: which postulates that, eventually, ordinary people will be able to experience the thrill and wonder of spaceflight. Chesley Bonestell had confidence in this idea, too.
Chesley Bonestell (1888-1986)
Although he professed to dislike science fiction, Bonestell created what was essentially a science fiction short story and was the only one that he both wrote and illustrated. It was published in the March 1950 issue of “Coronet,”
a digest-sized magazine popular at the time.
“Mr. Smith Goes to Venus” consisted of 26 pages of art and text telling the story of the Smith family's vacation on the planet Venus. We meet the Smiths in the year 2500, as they are observing the brilliant Evening Star from the balcony of their futuristic home.
The Smith family admiring Venus, in an illustration by Chesley Bonestell
Attracted by the idea of Venus being a "tropical paradise," Smith decides to take his family on a trip to the planet. Consulting a travel agent, Smith learns that scientists had been wrong about the nature of Venus, that underneath a layer of formaldehyde clouds lay a tropical paradise "no hotter than the deserts of earth at midday, and comparable to the climates of Florida or Southern California." Mr. Smith chooses Phosphorus Valley for his destination because it was said to have "a superior golf course."
The space ship “Diana” by Chesley Bonestell

He books tickets on the spaceship "Diana," guaranteed to make the trip in just 84 hours, cruising at 300,000 miles an hour. The ship itself, located at the Long Island spaceport, is enormous, accommodating 600 passengers on three decks  two for cabins and one for recreation, including a library, a movie studio and "a television."

The Smith family, and other passengers, looking at the Moon
by Chesley Bonestell
Once beyond the Earth's atmosphere, the huge observation window is opened and the passengers thrill to spectacular views of the Earth and Moon. At the same time, the Smiths enjoy the novelty of weightlessness.
The space ship “Diana” lands on Venus, in an illustration
by Chesley Bonestell
After finally arriving on Venus, the family takes a shuttle rocket to their hotel in Phosphorus Valley. Bonestell spends the next six pages describing the wonders of our sister planet as the Smith family explore it. There are towering mountains, waterfalls and volcanoes...but no oceans. Venus is one large continent. While Mr. Smith golfs, his wife and children are amazed by giant butterflies, orchids, and forests of tree-sized ferns. The Venopolis Zoo is filled with living dinosaurs.
The Smith family at the Venopolis Zoo by Chesley Bonestell

Fortunately, the Smiths are prevented from getting too close to the radioactive uranium and beryllium mines. Soon it is time for the family to return home and as they watch the golden planet shrink in the distance, Mr. Smith promises, “We will certainly have to come back again next year!”

Air travel on Venus as envisioned by Chesley Bonestell

Although the Venus that Bonestell envisioned wasn’t even plausible by the 1950s (though there is much about the story that is clearly tongue-in-cheek), he did imagine a world in the not-too-distant future where space tourism was not only an established fact but one taken entirely for granted. 

Flash forward many decades later…

Credit: NASA                                                             
Dennis Tito - the first Space Tourist

Space tourism began for real 20 years ago when American industrialist and billionaire Dennis Tito became the first space tourist. He paid a reported $20,000,000 to take his own flight up into space, which occurred on April 28, 2001. Tito spent eight days on the International Space Station, getting there and back to Earth on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Today, the means of engaging in out-of-this-world travel are becoming more economical. Soon, you won’t need to be a billionaire or a NASA astronaut to view our planet from Low Earth Orbit. Space entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson are working hard to make space travel affordable for you.

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
A prototype for the Bigelow Aerospace B330 inflatable space hotel

Need a place to stay when you’re up there? Accommodations at a space hotel would be the answer. Pictured above is an inflatable hotel developed by Robert Bigelow at his Bigelow Aerospace facilities in Nevada. Can a Space Travel Rewards Program be far behind?

Forty years ago, space architect John Spencer saw exciting possibilities ahead for the travel industry. He formed the Space Tourism Society in 1996, whose mission is to bring affordable space travel to the forefront of public awareness worldwide. The STS believes that “space tourism is the most logical endeavor for private enterprise to pursue towards the goal of expanding humankind into space.” With several branches established in the US, the STS now has 20 chapters on almost every continent.  Barring any unforeseen difficulties, the STS will hold its First Annual Space Tourism Conference next year in Los Angeles. Chesley Bonestell lived from 1888-1986, and I am certain that if he were here, he wouldn’t miss it for the world. For more information click here:

Editor's Note:
- Ron Miller is an acclaimed space artist and author of over 70 books, including “Worlds Beyond and the Hugo Award-winning “The Art of Chesley Bonestell.” He is also one of the Co-Producers of the award-winning documentary Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future. In 1977, 
Mr. Miller met Chesley Bonestell at his home in Carmel, CA and corresponded with him up until his passing at age 98.

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