18 Jul The 20th Anniversary of Private Spaceflight
A Look Back
Let’s start by saying that nothing worthwhile comes easy. We’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dennis Tito’s spaceflight. He made history by becoming the first fare-paying private citizen to launch to space. But the road that he traveled to get there was full of challenges.
Cast your mind back 20 years ago to April 2001. Some of you reading this may not have been born. The September 11th attacks on the United States had not yet happened. The iPod was months away from launch, but Wikipedia had just gone live. Barry Bonds was just warming up for his steroid-fueled home run tear. George W. Bush was only in his 3rd month of his presidency and Vladimir Putin just assumed office.
Chance of a Lifetime
That was the world when former JPL engineer Dennis Tito, at 60 years of age, was offered the chance to fulfil his lifelong dream. Dennis long believed in space exploration. Eric Anderson had a dream too. He, like Dennis, wanted to launch to space. Unfortunately, poor eye sight prevented Eric from pursuing that dream. But Eric had been rethinking space exploration and came to the conclusion that it shouldn’t be for just former fighter pilots from the ‘Right Stuff’ era.
Soon after Eric graduated from college, he co-founded Space Adventures with a few like-minded individuals. Their mission was to open the space frontier to all. That was 1998. Eric thought that Space Adventures’ first customers would launch to space on suborbital flights. He was not expecting to launch a tourist all the way to low-Earth orbit, but that’s what happened.