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Buck Rogers bucks
For $102,000, you too can go on a privately financed trip to space -- once the kinks are worked out.
June 21, 2004: 2:59 PM EDT
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - London investment banker Per Wimmer had lots of interest in Monday's first privately financed manned space flight -- $102,000 worth, to be exact.

SpaceShipOne as it landed Monday, completing the first privately financed manned space flight.  
SpaceShipOne as it landed Monday, completing the first privately financed manned space flight.

Wimmer has already paid Space Adventures, a sort of space travel agency, to reserve a seat on a future sub-orbital space flight similar to one made Monday by veteran test pilot Michael Melvill.

The privately financed SpaceShipOne flew more than 62 miles above California's Mojave Desert, taking Melvill outside of earth's atmosphere and into weightlessness for about 15 minutes. (Click here for CNN.com's coverage of the flight)

Wimmer, 35, who works for Collins Stewart in London, said he had no doubt about committing money to the flight as soon as he heard it was possible.

"It is the ultimate adventure," he said. "I've visited more than 50 countries, and been out in some remote corners of the Earth. I like new things, testing new barriers, and I see this as the next step from my adventure travels."

Wimmer has even grander plans for his own space travel -- he would like to eventually go to the moon. But while he's not certain that will ever be in his reach, he has no doubt that space tourism is just around the corner, more than four decades after the first manned flight.

"The wave is just too strong. The tide of money, interest, entrepreneur, passion is there," he said.

How long Wimmer and others will have to wait is one of the big questions.

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U.S.-based Space Adventures has already put two paying passengers in space on the International Space Station, American Dennis Tito and South African Mark Shuttleworth, under contracts with the Russian space agency. But those longer orbital flights, with a price tag of $20 million each, are out of the reach of Wimmer and most other would-be astronauts.

Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson said his company has collected about $2 million in deposits, ranging from $5,000 to the full $102,000 projected price, from more than 100 potential passengers. He believes there is a demand for thousands of flights a year at that six-figure price, even though capacity will likely be in the hundreds for the next few years.

"For every deposit we've taken, there's 100 more who say they want to buy a flight once they're operational," he said.

Countdown to '05, '06...?

Anderson said that while a paid sub-orbital flight could take place as soon as 2005, he thinks 2006 and 2007 are more likely.

SpaceShipOne takes off Monday attached to White Knight, a specially designed airplane that takes it to 50,000 feet on its way to outer space.  
SpaceShipOne takes off Monday attached to White Knight, a specially designed airplane that takes it to 50,000 feet on its way to outer space.

Space Adventures' own poll of those who have given the company deposits found that 51 percent would like to take more than one sub-orbital flight once they are available. Wimmer is one of those who wants his flight not to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

"I think the first time around will be so exciting, so many things happening, you won't be able to appreciate it," he said.

About 46 percent in the Space Adventures' poll said their major motivation is to see Earth from space, while 30 percent are drawn by the uniqueness of experience or be part of an exclusive club. Only 7 percent said they're doing it in order to experience weightlessness.

In addition, 69 percent said they would have been a passenger on Monday's flight if they could have, while 12 percent said they wanted a few more flights before they went into space themselves.

Crowds watching the launch of SpaceShipOne Monday in the Mojave Desert.  
Crowds watching the launch of SpaceShipOne Monday in the Mojave Desert.

Wimmer said he's not overly concerned about the risk associated with space flight, and Anderson said even if there is an accident in the future, he does not expect it to significantly reduce demand for space tourism.

Space Adventures has contracts with seven different space craft developers who hope to be able to provide manned suborbital flights in the next few years. Most launch the craft from underneath a special airplane, as SpaceShipOne did Monday, but some have a traditional vertical rocket lift.

Anderson does not have a contract with Scaled Composites, aircraft designer Burt Rutan's company that built SpaceShipOne with financial support from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

But Anderson said several of the space craft-building teams with which Space Adventures has contracts are using Scaled Composites to build key parts of their vehicles.

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Joining Scaled Composites in the private race for space are more than 20 teams from seven countries. They have registered to compete for the Ansari X Prize, $10 million to be the first team that has two privately financed flights within two weeks in a space craft capable of carrying three people.

Anderson, who was in the Mojave to watch Monday's flight, said that while it is a significant milestone in private space flight, he doesn't expect it to cause a flood of new demand from consumers.

But, he added, "It certainly won't hurt."  Top of page




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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.