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While voyages to space have often figured centrally in contemporary fiction narratives (Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator are just two examples), the notion of actually sending ordinary citizens to explore the heavens long remained a pipe dream. The socialist futurist movements of the 1960s and 1970s predicted the prevalence of space hotels by the turn of the century; Pan American Airlines even established a waiting list in the 1960s for eventual lunar flights, issuing “First Moon Flights Club” membership cards to eager passengers. But the first commercial developments toward civilian passenger space tourism did not get off the ground until the very end of the 20th century.

After the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in ...

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