The one thing that unites the world of travel is the desire for fresh color and new experiences. With Tesla billionaire Elon Musk among a handful of entrepreneurs hoping to make space tourism a big deal over the next couple of decades, travelers with a few bucks to spare might start to consider saving for the long-haul. Not all of the most spectacular sights, sounds and smells of the wider universe will be within our reach during our lifetime, but it’s worth taking a moment to consider some of the astonishing experiences astronomers have dangled before our eyes.
Of course, we’ve already seen a dozen men on the moon, but tourists with a more earthbound focus may not have heard about one of the stranger sensations of the experience: the smell. Yes, even inside those sleek helmets, the acrid gunpowder aroma of recently-disturbed moondust makes its way into the nostrils to complete a multi-sensory adventure that’s worth writing home about (if you can find a postbox). However, when a star the size of fifty suns explodes 35 million miles away, as astronomers noted earlier this year, you’ll be glad it’s in a galaxy that can only be observed by telescope.
A more achievable destination, certainly for young scientists with an eye on the great beyond, would be the International Space Station. This shared initiative between sixteen global powers is the first step towards a greater ambition: not just visiting, but living among the stars. Since 1998, the 220-mile-high floating laboratory has supported a crew of six – plus visitors – while they carry out research on the plausibility of long-term space inhabitancy, including the effects of enduring microgravity for years at a time. So, how do you fancy being an Earth ex-pat? For more options on where you might end up – in imagination at least – be sure to check our new guide to the best tourist destinations in the universe.