Space tourism for the people: become a virtual reality astronaut

VR companies around the world are planning to offer live views of the Earth from space within the next few years
SpaceTime Enterprises hopes to offer virtual reality astronaut experiences by beaming back live images of the Earth from space. Photograph: SpaceTime Enterprises

It’s the dream of any would-be space tourist: seeing our home planet from above. First you see the Earth’s horizon curve away, and then the luminous thin envelope of atmosphere that keeps us all alive comes into focus.

As you cross the daylight side of Earth, you look down to see gigantic landscapes – mountains and valleys – beneath you. As your orbit continues, so night falls and the city lights turn on. Now you can see the human landscape of the planet.

It is an experience said to be so profound that many astronauts say it permanently alters the way they think of the world and humanity. Psychologists now recognise this and call it the overview effect.

No wonder then that a number of companies are vying to build rockets to take space tourists on the trip of a lifetime. But with the cost of even the cheapest tickets running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, it seems likely to be an experience most of us will be denied. Or does it?

Now two UK-based companies have joined forces to offer the experience to virtually anyone. And the key word is virtual.

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