Private space travel refers to spaceflights conducted by companies in the commercial space industry instead of government space agencies. Rather than focusing on science and exploration for the public good, private space companies aim to provide space access and experiences to paying customers.

The idea of private space travel gained traction in the early 2000s as space visionaries like Elon Musk founded SpaceX and Sir Richard Branson established Virgin Galactic. Rather than attempting to replace NASA, these entrepreneurs saw opportunities to work with space agencies while achieving their own landmark innovations. For instance, SpaceX pioneered reusable rocket technology for cost savings and is contracted by NASA for astronaut transport.

Similarly, companies like Blue Origin see regular citizens, not just highly trained astronauts, as the target customer base for the burgeoning space tourism industry. These companies are applying supersonic rocket and spaceplane advancements to offer suborbital and orbital flights to paying thrillseekers and space enthusiasts starting at $200,000 to $250,000 a seat. In just a few minutes, passengers can experience dazzling views of Earth and weightlessness from the upper atmosphere and cosmic radiation from beyond Earth’s magnetosphere.

The scope of private space travel continues expanding as entities like Axiom Space partner with SpaceX to fly the first fully private astronaut missions to the International Space Station by 2023. Additionally, startups like Orbital Assembly are even planning to build exclusive space hotels in orbit during the 2030s.

While government oversight, regulation, and major technology hurdles persist for private space companies, global investment in space startups has now crossed $75 billion. As reusable rockets make access to space cheaper this decade, the allure of cosmic adventure promises to make space travel far more mainstream. Most in the industry predict passenger seat prices eventually dropping below $50,000 with 100,000 tourists projected to visit space annually by 2040. Private space travel marks a giant leap enabling average citizens to achieve the astronaut dream.