REQUIREMENTS FOR SPACE TOURISMMarket
There have been some preliminary market surveys, by Rockwell International, Space Expeditions, the Japanese Rocket Society, etc. (results of some of which are available at the Space Future web site). These have indicated potentially strong interest in public space travel (a huge fraction of the populace of all the industrial democracies would pay various amounts of money to go), but there have been no rigorous scientific surveys combined with focus groups that can be "taken to the bank" by a space tourism company.
This is ironic and, to proponents of space development and particularly space tourism, frustrating, because such surveys would cost a pittance (<<1%), compared to current government programs, such as NASA's X-33, that are ostensibly aimed at reducing the cost of access to space. In addition, their value in promoting confidence in the market to potential space tourism investors would be vast, in comparison to the technology studies toward which the majority of U.S. government funds are currently being deployed.
In the absence of such studies, however, or perhaps in conjunction with them, it would be useful to plumb the market for currently-existing experiences. This would permit us to determine the willingness of wealthy individuals to pay for actual space-related activities, and to flush out potential issues in providing space experiences to the general public (to be discussed in the sections following).
Based on our nation's specific experience over the past forty-plus years in space, and general experience with state bureaucracies throughout human history, it is clear that the government and its traditional aerospace contractors are not going to reduce the cost of space on their own—they currently (and for the foreseeable future) have few incentives to do so. For instance, the government market remains essentially non-elastic with respect to price. We must have new investment from the private sector to satisfy true market demand, in order to dramatically reduce the unit costs of access to low earth orbit, which in turn is the key to opening the new frontier of space. However, only a demonstrated market will draw in that necessary investment.