New Survey Takes the Pulse of Public Space Travel

Anew survey is trying to get to the bottom of what public travelers long for andfancy from a journey into space.

Theintent of the survey is help design better space tourism packages - be itzipping up to the edge of space on a suborbital spree, pulling up to a spacehotel in Earth orbit, or looping around the Moon.

Also,the study is crafted to pulse a prospective space traveler's view of safety,risk, and bravery required for a person to buckle up for blastoff.

Past poll

Thequestions - tagged The Adventurers' Survey - represent a joint undertaking by DerekWebber, Director of Spaceport Associates in Bethesda, Maryland and JaneReifert, President of Incredible Adventures, Inc., headquartered in Sarasota, Florida.

Ithas been four years since Webber directed another effort to poll publicattitudes regarding space tourism - the Futron/Zogby Survey.

Futron,a Bethesda, Maryland-based decision support consulting firm, published a spacetourism market study in 2002, based on a Zogby International poll of affluentAmericans commissioned by Futron. The poll judged the level of interest in, andwillingness to pay for, space tourism experiences among those people with themeans to plunk down cash for such flights. Futron used the poll results toproduce a 20-year forecast for consumer demand for orbital and suborbital spacetourism flights.

Highlightsof that market study included these findings:

--The overall space tourism market is very promising, and could generate revenuesin excess of $1 billion per year by 2021;

--Suborbital space tourism will generate the largest demand, with the potentialfor 15,000 passengers and $700 million in revenues per year by 2021;

--Orbital space tourism, while growing more slowly than its suborbitalcounterpart, will still have up to 60 passengers and $300 million in revenuesper year by 2021;

--Those interested in suborbital space tourism are demographically distinct fromthose interested in orbital tourism.

Fun, money and risk

Whyanother space tourism survey?

"Publicperceptions have probably changed since 2002...so it's about time! I want tocheck that the original findings are still valid," Webber told SPACE.com.And given what the public has seen from the suborbital flights of SpaceShipOne,the rise of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, as well as the expandablevision of Robert Bigelow's orbiting space module concept, the timing is good,he said.

Thehope is that survey findings will be of immediate help to the industry indesigning the first space tourism packages, Webber said.

"Aswe get closer to liftoff of this new industry sector, space adventure plannersand investors are facing some important choices and they are probably gettinga little nervous," Webber said. "A successful business plan in this industryneeds to faithfully reflect how the future public space traveler weighs fun,money and risk."

Market perceptions

Thesurvey of space adventurers is keen on looking for answers to five questions:

--Is there still an untapped market interest for personal space traveladventures?

-- How does the general interest translate into various specific options andprices on offer - and the range of options that now includes lunar trips?

--What preferences, if any, does the public have for various architectural designoptions for the space vehicle being developed for the venture?

--What are the public attitudes, and price sensitivities, tovarious elements of the space adventure packages being offered - likeduration, spacewalks, hotels, spaceports, training packages?

--Who are the likely travelers, and how do they view risk?

"Whenwe have analyzed the responses, we'll get some good insight into all of these,"Webber added. "But this doesn't mean, of course, that the work will thenbe done," he cautioned. 

There'salways need to monitor market perceptions especially for a totally new businessarea, Webber added. "Any good consultant worth his or her salt will tell youthat!"

Customers of the future

JaneReifert, President of Incredible Adventures, said that, in a way, the companyhas been informally surveying its customers since the early 1990's - when thegroup first began offering high-altitude flights, zero gravity adventures andhands-on cosmonaut training in Russia. 

"Asa matter of routine, customers receive a 'report card' upon return home, askingthem to evaluate the programs and offer comments and suggestions. Thisinformation is then used internally to improve our existing programs and createnew adventures," Reifert said.

Byteaming up with Webber, the surveying of customers and website visitors isbeing taken to a next level, Reifert told SPACE.com. But settling on alist of questions proved to be not an easy task, she said.

"Iwanted to get answers to the questions I'm routinely asked by people within thespace industry," Reifert continued, "about customers of the future."

Reifertsaid that her experiences in selling space-related programs has provided afoundation for who she thinks those customers will be and what they will want."But I'm the first to admit...I could be wrong. The results of this survey willsay a lot."

Space speak 101

Aconcern is that the survey questions be presented as clearly as possible.

There'sa tendency within the space community to assume everyone "speaks space",Reifert asserted. For example, she's not convinced everyone knows thedifference between suborbital and orbital flights. The new survey providesclear definitions and photos, so those tallying up survey output can haveconfidence in the choices participants make.

"We'veseen customer wishes and expectations change over the years as they become moreknowledgeable about our products. In the early years, they just wanted to breakthe sound barrier. They didn't particularly care what jet they did it in. Now,customers understand the differences in aircraft better and thus have clearideas of what they want and do not want," Reifert said.

Oneitem of note about the survey is that it is open for participation around theworld..."since space isn't just a U.S. thing," Reifert pointed out. Furthermore,the survey isn't limited to gauging just adult interests.

"Wethink knowing what youth think and want when it comes to space travel is importantto future plans," Reifert noted. In addition, the survey is not focused onpeople of a specific income level, she said.

Totake a look at the survey, go to:

http://www.incredible-adventures.com/space-survey/index.html

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