Tales of Future Past v2

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Space Holidays

Future Living

Some days you just want to get away from it all... preferably somewhere in deep space.

It was only natural as man started his conquest of space people started to ask one of the eternal questions: When is the first package tour leaving?

In 2001: a Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick depicted the 21st century as a time when space travel wasn't just routine, it was banal.  Take the Pan Am shuttle to Station V and you'd find all the familiar signs of any busy '60s airport. You could check in at the Hilton, grab a quick cup of coffee from the vending machine, call home at the ATT picturephone booth, then on to the Howard Johnson's Earthlight Room for supper. Even the decor would be the same -- flat, white panelling; wall to wall, painfully bright fluorescent lighting; and lounge furniture that was never designed to sat in by any form of human life. The future never looked brighter.

Not that space holidays were a product of the '60s. In 1955 Disneyland featured its TWA Rocket to the Moon, where tourists could experience what a day trip to the Moon would supposedly be like.

Not only that, but the trip was a regularly scheduled TWA flight.

The Disney "Moonliner," which was the centrepiece of Tomorrowland into the 1970s, was a remarkable embodiment of how the 1950s envisioned a fully developed passenger spaceship of 1986. It was eighty feet tall, shaped like a V2 rocket and wasn't one of those inelegant multiple stage affairs that the government was playing with. This was a single-stage atomic affair with neatly compact, retractable landing gear as functional as an airliner's; a cockpit (which was singularly lacking in most fictional space rockets of the day); and a boarding ramp for passengers that would have been quite at home in a modern airport.

If Moon rockets really were like this in1986, we'd have all been a lot happier.

Certainly Pan Am would have been.

When the Apollo missions were in full swing there was a heady, though short lived, optimism about the future of space travel.  This reached such a pitch that when Apollo 8 went into orbit around the Moon, Julian Trippe, president of Pan Am, announced that his airline was now taking reservations for the first commercial Moon flights in the year 2000.  

This may sound a bit crazy, as the Moon was an arid wasteland and  had no hotels or other tourist amenities, but that didn't stop travel agents from booking tours to Spain at the time. The public jumped at the idea and by 1971 Pan Am had 93,000 reservations for flights that did not exist.  What is even stranger is that something of a price war went on.  

The flights were initially pegged at $28,000 (return), but Werner Von Braun was predicting regular service by 2000 and Thomas Paine, NASA administrator in 1969, predicted that fares would drop to $5000 by 1990. Was this due to overestimating improvements in technology or because TWA announced that it was getting into the Moon flight business?  Who can say?

All that is certain is that when the year 2000 clocked in there weren't any commercial flights to the Sea of Tranquillity, but then, Pan Am wasn't around to honour those reservations either.

On the other hand, space tourism had arrived, but only as far as the International Space Station and at a set fare of  $20,000,000 (coach).

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