Space tourism

With ventures like the X-prize and Virgin Galactic, the profile of commercial space travel has certainly never been higher.

SPACE TOURISM: ADVENTURES IN EARTH ORBIT AND BEYOND

Michael Van Pelt

Springer/£19

Michael Van Pelt believes that, following a number of false dawns, space tourism is closer than it has ever been. And with ventures like the X-prize and Virgin Galactic, the profile of commercial space travel has certainly never been higher.

Space Tourism embraces a number of themes including the attitude of governments to the evolution of space technology.

Here the reader is presented with a fascinating account of a pre-Cold War example of one-upmanship as British, US and Soviet troops scour the fallen Nazi empire for the best German technology and engineers to capitalise on their ballistics research.

Pioneer astronauts were subjected to numerous phases of punishing physical and psychological testing ranging from isolation chambers and oxygen depletion to the famous G-force reaction test.

But Van Pelt concludes that such extreme procedures are not relevant to the space tourist. In fact, he reckons the average human can comfortably endure space flight, highlighting the case of the Japanese journalist sent up to Mir in 1990 who smoked four packs of cigarettes a day.

Christopher Sell