We have officially seen two billionaires travel to space within a week of each other. The first being Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic, and the second being Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin and Amazon. This may very well be a signal of change in the realm of space travel.
Alongside the astronauts that we grew up idolizing are now billionaires and tourists. This raises lots of problems for me. It begs the question, what does it mean to be an astronaut now? Has the achievement lost some weight now that money can buy it? I don't think the achievement of being an astronaut in the traditional sense is worth any less. I see going to space as a researcher and explorer very different from going as a tourist. Space is vast enough and complicated enough that we will always need explorers in space, but now they can coexist with tourists. I find that our reverence for astronauts ultimately comes from the fact that they are brave explorers of the unknown. Space tourism is fascinating in it's own right, but it will never require the same expertise and courage that being an explorer does. I think people will naturally recognize that difference.
I think that space tourism has the potential to do a lot of good if done correctly. My hope is that space tourism focuses on what astronauts have coined as the "Orbital Perspective". This is a perspective that views the world as one, undivided by nation lines or tribe - a perspective that only going to space can possibly force you to see. Through the orbital perspective, one sees humanity mothered by a green world, held in equilibrium by a thin, fragile atmosphere. I hope that some of the rich and powerful space tourists's perspective on the world changes from going to space. Time will tell, but I am hoping for the best.