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Cost in Space

Plain old earthbound tourism has seen plenty of price-cutting and bargain hunting in recent tight-fisted times. But when it comes to Space Tourism, the price is skyrocketing! Russian Space agency Roscomos announced that it is nearly doubling the cost of a trip to the International Space station. If you want a seat on the Soyuz spacecraft, it will now run you 50 million dollars.

If that’s out of your price range, you can always try booking a trip over at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic — the Ryanair of space travel — with a bargain rate of $200,000 per passenger.

(But for that amount, you only get a “suborbital” jaunt; you’re shot 360,000 feet up into the air and your actual zero-gravity experience lasts a mere 4-5 minutes. Then it’s back down to earth. Hardly seems worth the trouble. The project is also behind schedule; the original plan was for flights by 2008; the new goal is 2010. Subject to change, of course. Contact an Accredited Space Agent for more information.)

Photo op on the moon.If that’s still not in your budget, we have some suggestion for even cheaper outer space outings: we suggest using your imagination!

Meteor Crater in Winslow, Arizona.  This huge hole in the ground looks rather lunar. Admission is only $15 ($8 for kids) and no special gear is required for breathing. The museum provides a lunar landscape backdrop for posing. Although visitors are only permitted to view the site from a scenic overlook on the rim, we bet you could offer far less than $50 million for the proprietors to look the other way as you descend on off-hours. For your convenience, there’s a gift shop and Subway sandwich outpost in the main building. Plus, normal toilets!

MIR Space StationOr try cutting a deal with folks at Tommy Bartlett’s Exploratory in Lake Delton, Wisconsin. They own a 20-ton Mir Space module. And it’s carpeted! You can peek inside with your $12 admission fee. Perhaps you could work out an overnight stay for the right price.

If you looking for a more exciting fantasy space outing, head for the Area 51 Museum at The Alien Zone in Roswell, New Mexico.

Area 51 bar-b-qSkip the boring dust and rocks at other space-theme attractions.  Instead, choose to mingle with alien alcoholics in the bar, step into the dusty hand-made flying saucer, and shoot the shinola with a depressed-looking, bug-eyed guy pondering the universe in a lawn chair. There are photo ops aplenty and tons of souvenir tsatskes — and isn’t that the point of vacation after all? [Post by Anne D. Bernstein]

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