Fly Me to the Moon
    Category: Forbes Life By : Janet Eom Read : 1218 Date : Monday, December 02, 2013 - 07:41:36

    Courtesy of SXC

    Space tourism is coming to Asia. Just about a year ago, Amsterdam-based Space Expedition Corp. (SXC) hired John Sutherland, 57, a lifestyle travel consultant, as its agent in Singapore, to market space flights in Singapore and Indonesia. John's goal is to find the first Singaporean or Indonesian to fly into space on a SXC flight. John says he is excited about Indonesia's potential for space tourism. “Once Indonesia catches onto it, there'll be a lot of people that will want to do it,” he says.

    He says he is in discussion with the heads of the branches of Citibank and UOB based in Singapore and Indonesia about their high net worth clients who are looking for unique travel experiences, as well as other strategies to attract potential clients. The space tourism market dates back to 2001, when space tourism company Space Adventures flew U.S. engineer Dennis Tito into space. Since then, other famous space tourism clients have included Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, and Anousheh Ansari, former chief executive of Telecom Technologies and the first female space tourist.

    Founded three years ago, SXC is headed by Michiel Mol, 44, who comes from a wealthy Dutch family that made its money in software. His partners in the venture are Harry van Hulten, 45, and Ben Droste, 69, both former test pilots. For about $100,000, a tourist in 2015 will be taken up in a spaceship, the Lynx Mark II, to 100 km above the earth, the internationally accepted border of outer space. Manufactured by California's XCOR Aerospace, the Lynx Mark II will carry one passenger and one pilot. The ride will last about one hour, during which the occupants will experience weightlessness at the pinnacle of the flight and a spectacular view of the earth (and by 2014, a “sub-orbital” flight will be ready).

    “I haven't been there yet, but the astronauts we talk to say that this view of earth from above is a life-changing experience,” says Michiel. Eventually, the Lynx Mark II is hoped to run up to four flights a day. Within the past two years, 250 clients from around the world have already purchased tickets from SXC, but there is yet to be one from Indonesia. As to whether SXC is close to signing up its first Indonesian, Sutherland says he has had inquiries from a few Indonesians, including some women, and that these talks remain ongoing. A major Indonesian brand, John is not allowed to say which one, is also interested in a sponsorship. A major company in Singapore is extremely close to signing an agreement with SXC to provide at least one flight to space for one of their clients, according to John.

    Michiel says that some studies indicate that by 2020, at least 20,000 people would be willing to fly to space every year. SXC estimates that itself and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic may fly at least 5,000 into space every year within a few years time. In addition to direct sales, SXC has partners for joint marketing and sales. Its first global partner was the Dutch airlines KLM, which will use tickets to space for marketing efforts. Heineken will also soon begin a large-scale global campaign with SXC.