Culture Editor Tom Wilmer shares insights about civilian journeys to the International Space Station
By Tom Wilmer & Elizabeth Saylor
Today, even the best ultimate destination vacations are hampered by Covid-spector realities. Ubiquitous masks, goggles, testing and social distancing subconsciously ratchet up anxiety levels while simultaneously reducing pleasure and awe.
But what if there were a getaway promising out-of-this-world scenery, once in a lifetime thrills, a chance to make history and come away from it with a life-altering view of humanity’s totality — all possible without requisite plague masks, twinges of anthropophobia and hand-sanitizer-cracked hands?
Well, by thinking outside the box (or sphere, in this case), Directed by Roman Chiporukha and Erica Jackowitz, husband-and-wife co-founders of Roman & Erica, Inc., NYC-based lifestyle and luxury travel firm is the first company to offer such an epic adventure. Partnering with Axiom Space, seats are now available for a 10-day total “private astronaut” space flight experience to escape earth’s confines, designating a low-earth-orbit space station as “home” for eight of those transformative days.
It’s only natural that Mike Suffredini, former director of NASA’s International Space Station, would be willing to lend his expertise as Axiom’s CEO to help people experience the numerous social, economic and even cognitive benefits of space flight.
Hyperbole aside, space travel really is life changing. There’s even a term for visualizing earth from space: the “overview effect”, which is a profound sense of interconnectedness and euphoria whereby the viewer sees earth’s fragility, beauty and the oneness of all living things. Astronauts have even reported the cognitive changes re-made their perceptions of life’s purpose. Earthly, holiday vacation digital media memories are no match for life-affirming adventures beyond our atmosphere.
Aside from personal enlightenment, other private space-travel benefits are innumerable. For the industrially inclined, research and development opportunities from space’s microgravity/extreme environment will drive future discoveries unavailable on earth.
Scientific endeavors in the field of medicine, e.g. regenerative medicine, pharmaceutical R&D and accelerated-disease modeling– along with unparalleled possibilities for advancements in fluid physics and protein crystallization modeling, make the science/space coupling full of potentially profound discoveries.
And if a private astronaut’s proclivities are humanitarian, what better stage could there be to deliver a compelling message encouraging specific global behavioral change. No doubt, messages encouraging climate change awareness would strike an impressive cord with our delicate blue-dot planet framed by the cosmos.
So, how does one sign up for the trip of a lifetime? Of course, would-be adventurers must be very healthy, and a thorough medical evaluation with a physician’s clearance is required. Once greenlighted physically, a 15-week astronaut training (spread out over almost two years) is held at space agency facilities — with the training purported to be an incredible experience even with feet planted on terra firma.
The launch team usually consists of three private astronauts and one career-commander astronaut. Learning to function as a team is crucial not just for safety reasons, but for building mental health ease and camaraderie. The fact that training takes place in the same ultra-sophisticated, beyond-cutting-edge-tech facilities used by hero astronauts is heady stuff.
And then there’s the cost. With an all inclusive price tag of $55 million, it’s obviously out of reach for nearly all who may want to sail toward the stars… BUT for those who can afford to sign up now, their journeys will pave the way for the next wave of civilian astronauts and, within a relatively short period of time, drive down costs enough to enable hundreds, and eventually thousands, of eager space explorers to afford the mind-bending travel.
Though Roman & Erica, Inc. sold out the October 2021 flight, an extraordinary accomplishment, two seats are still available for the April 2022 launch. “We are the first travel company to successfully sell private astronaut seats for the ISS mission and are literally travel agents to the stars! It’s outta this world,” said Roman Chiporukha, CFO & Co-Founder of Roman & Erica, Inc. “We are thrilled to partner with Axiom Space. They are virtuosos in the private astronaut space and in the process of building the replacement to the International Space Station which is incredible!”
It’s been whispered that Tom Cruise is supposedly going for a 30 day mission in Oct 2022 with Mission Impossible director pal, Doug Liman. That would leave an extra seat, possibly, to chat up Top Gun while hurtling through space– hard to resist, right? After that, it’s your race to make a reservation with history. And if you’re not keen on travel to outer space, Roman & Erica will be happy to sort whatever else you’re interested in. We hear they have a waiting list to become a member and frankly, we are not surprised.