Astronaut Advice for Future Space Tourists
Three-time spacewalker Tom Jones is seen here toiling outside the ISS and Atlantis shuttle during NASA's STS-98 mission in 2001.
Credit: NASA/Space Adventures.

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Space travelers just want to have fun.

According to several veteran shuttle astronauts, future space tourists should carefully plan their out-of-this-world experience. Plot out your favorite free-fall activities, carefully select your camera gear--but don't hog the window!

A panel of U.S. astronauts--each a member of the Association of Space Explorers--offered their advice for commercial space travelers at the 2nd International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight, held here as prelude to the Wirefly X Prize Cup competitions slated for October 20-21 at the Las Cruces International Airport.

"Life Changing Experience"

Former shuttle astronaut, Tom Jones, said that space travel has been a "life changing experience" for those that have been privileged to work in space. "It ranks right up there with getting married or watching your children being born."

Jones too said that anybody taking a space voyage must make the most of that experience. There's nothing like falling around the planet every 90 minutes at 5 miles per second, he remarked.

One suggestion from Jones is don't monopolize the window.

Space is "strange but wonderful", Jones explained, spotlighting the three-dimensional, physical freedom afforded anybody in microgravity. "Make the most of it. For the first time in your life you'll be able to juggle in many cases," he observed.

Space tourists should make a "to do" list before they depart Earth, whether its days of orbital flight or 10 minutes of suborbital weightlessness. Be it playing with water, or tossing candy around, or just having face time at the spaceship window--"make a list and make a plan," Jones suggested.

Prioritize your activities

From astronaut Leroy Chiao, there are several key things to consider if you're ready for personal space travel.

"You can't really simulate it on the ground," Chiao said. "You can't really prepare for what it's really going to be like."

Still, as for key tips, Chiao said an orbital space tourist should think ahead about what they're going to do and prioritize their activities.

"You won't believe how quickly a week will go by," Chiao said. "Take the time to enjoy the view. The Earth everywhere is beautiful." [See Leroy Chaio's Top 10 Images from Space here.]

Practice, practice, practice

Shuttle astronaut Mario Runco recommended studying your geology before heading off into suborbital or orbital space. Depending on your trek, prepare yourself for the landscapes you'll be cruising over.

Runco provided a tutorial on the right cameras to haul into space, f-stops, shutter speeds--but also underscored that a space tourist before blastoff needs to "practice, practice, practice" using photography gear.

"Get you camera, buy the lenses, practice on the ground...take hundreds of photographs of your children, cars in traffic," Runco advised, all to hone your picture taking skills.

Given digital camera technology of the day, it's far easier to sharpen you camera-snapping techniques.

"You see your picture, you know what you did wrong...then take another one under very similar conditions," Runco explained. But his bottom line suggestion: "If you're going to go through this effort [of space travel]...don't take a happy snap camera up there."

Chiao said that space sickness--experienced by many space travelers in the past--is now being handled successfully via medications.

"I go up into problem and I feel great" Chaio said. "It's when I come back it takes me a little while to get over the queasiness and dizziness."