Outer space lacks tourist attractions

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Some investors are betting that space tourism will pay off.

A recent news story said the industry got a boost last month when a Boston investment group backed a private rocket company developing a spaceship that will take off and land like an airplane.

Passengers reportedly would pay thousands of dollars to ride on a special plane that would allow them to experience up to three minutes of weightlessness some 62 miles above Earth.

Soon, I guess, people will be booking trips to the moon.

But I'm not ready to embrace space tourism just yet. For one thing, at this point, only the rich can even begin to embrace it. The rest of us are still tied to Earth's gravity.

Besides, how can you have tourism in space? There are no rest stops, chain restaurants, hotels with free breakfasts, billboards advertising attractions or even water parks.

It doesn't sound like a vacation to me.

My daughters wouldn't find space interesting. There's no place to shop.

And clearly it doesn't count as a vacation if you can't buy a T-shirt with a logo or saying promoting every tourist site around.

John Hallal of the Boston investment group told The Associated Press: "This industry is going to explode or fizzle. If it's successful, people will look back and say, 'These Boston Harbor investors are smart guys.' If not, it's not the end of the world."

Unless, of course, you're the tourist stuck in space with no return ticket home.

The lack of readily available water in space poses a big problem in opening a tourist attraction like a water park.

Of course, Cape Girardeau residents can sympathize with the lack of water parks in space. We don't have one in our city. And, at this point, it appears unlikely that such a project will surface in our community.

But thankfully water parks have developed in other cities that can be reached by car without having to have a major endowment.

Last weekend, our family headed to western Kentucky to spend a day splashing around at Venture River, a water park featuring everything from water slides to a lazy river and a wave pool.

The day started out cloudy. But by afternoon, sunshine had moved into the area.

By mid-afternoon, the wave pool was packed with children and adults.

There were plenty of people floating around in the water. No one was looking to float in space.

As tourism officials will tell you, nothing beats water recreation.

So perhaps these space tourism investors need to develop an indoor water park in the sky. Of course, they would have to pipe in a little gravity. Water slides don't work well without it.

And it wouldn't hurt to have some decent restaurants scattered throughout the heavens, too. People like to eat well when they're on a trip. They don't want to spend the whole trip snacking on peanuts.

Personally, I like to eat seafood. But I guess it would be pretty expensive to get the grilled grouper in space.

And tourists want to stay in nice hotels with indoor pools. As you can see, water attractions keep popping up.

That's particularly the case when you have children. Kids don't want to sit quietly looking at outer space unless there's a collision of major asteroids. Then they might take notice.

Kids want to go for a swim or play mini-golf.

They don't want to just watch the world pass by, even on vacation.

As it now stands, space may be the final frontier, but it's not a tourist destination.

When it comes to floating, our family doesn't have to escape gravity. We'll settle for inflated rubber tubes and a man-made river.

Best of all, we won't have to rush back to Earth.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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