SCOTS IN SPACE; SHUTTLE SERVICE: Star trekking set to overtake Spain in the holiday stakes.
Space - the final frontier - is a mere 25-minute flight away.
And, within 20 years, adventurous holiday-makers could take off for the Moon.
Space tourism has arrived and is being taken seriously as a potential billion dollar industry.
After all, once you have travelled the globe and seen all there is to see, the only way is up.
It might sound like a flight of fancy, but 7000 eager punters have already booked their seats.
They have registered with Lunar Tours, to be operated by travel agents Thomas Cook when space tourism becomes feasible.
Glasgow choreographer Tristan Borrer, 31, is among those booked up for an out- of-this-world holiday.
He wants to be the first person to dance in space.
Tristan beamed: "Seeing Earth from space would be an incredible experience.
"My girlfriend thinks it's just another one of my hair-brained ideas, but I believe it's possible."
He is not alone. Tim Sandford and Christopher Watt, both from Glasgow, have also reserved seats.
Nine-year-old Christopher is fascinated by space travel and has been to Cape Canaveral twice.
He said: "My ambition is to plant the Scottish flag on the Moon.
"And I'd like to see if there's any other life out there."
Computer systems designer Tim, 31, has a more down-to-earth view of space travel.
He said: "I'm not too concerned about going to the Moon. Just getting into space and experiencing weightlessness would be thrill enough.
"I don't know what it would cost, but I'd shell out pounds 20,000 without blinking an eye."
Although pioneering star-trekkers will be expected to stump up around pounds 400,000 for their trip, prices could fall to as little as pounds 4000 by the year 2010 as the industry takes off.
Vicki Burwell, of Thomas Cook, said: "It sounds like science fiction but it's totally feasible."
The 7000 people already registered with Lunar Tours will be given first refusal on the trips when they become possible.
Vicki said: "They will stay at a special space hotel, which will orbit the earth every 90 minutes."
Guests will witness spectacular sunrises and sunsets, be able to pick out advancing storm fronts, dazzling aurorae and ice floes near the poles.
And, of course, see the Earth as never before.
The Cosmic Hilton will rotate to create artificial gravity, making normal activity possible.
But adventurous guests can experience a range of zero-gravity activities in special rooms. There is, however, a down side to universe-trotting - one in two astronauts are spacesick.
And the journey will be less than comfortable, with G-forces that make a roller- coaster ride seem like a stroll in the park.
The problems facing space tourism, however, are not technical ones.
It's possible to build a plane capable of reaching space in just 25 minutes, using no more fuel than a flight to Australia.
The real hurdles are cutting through government red tape and obtaining funding.
British engineer David Ashford - whose company, Bristol Spaceplanes Ltd, is at the forefront of space tourism technology - said: "The know- how is there, it's just the lack of money that's holding us back."
In Japan, the Shimizu Corporation has set a target date of 2020 for its orbiting Space Resort. Their surveys show one million people are prepared to pay pounds 6000 each to get there.
The company will shuttle parties of up to 64 tourists into space and hopes eventually to introduce sightseeing excursions to the moon.
With further developments, trips to Mars, the moons of Jupiter and the outer planets could follow.
After that, the sky's the limit.
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Jul 27, 1996|
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