Space: The final frontier

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for liz blog.jpgUp until now, the opportunity to venture into space has been available to a very select few. In fact over the past 50 years less than 500 people have been lucky enough to blast into that vast abyss that exists beyond our rather worn out ozone layer, writes Liz McMahon.

For most of us, space is an enigma, a smorgasbord of things that we have been taught (the solar system, black holes, Neil Armstrong) and what we have soaked up from the media (and Stephen Hawking) all deliciously mixed with our own fantastical ideas of what might be out there, just waiting to be discovered. The man in the moon has a lot to answer for.

This is all set to change, if Richard Branson has anything to say about it. Although it is somewhat behind schedule, Virgin Galactic should be ready to take customers into space within the next two years. After paying an eye watering £125,000 and taking part in a three day training programme, space day trippers will take off from Spaceport America in New Mexico and experience the liberating wonder of weightlessness as they orbit our meagre planet.

Already 400 people have signed up and are eagerly waiting to boldly go where no man (well okay a few) has gone before. While Branson hasn't got any competition at the moment, it is likely someone like Stelios will throw his hat in the ring sooner rather than later.

Space resorts

In a recent survey, online travel agent found that 22% of respondents truly believed that they would be able to travel to space resorts by 2020. That's less than a decade away.

So what might have seemed like an impossible dream does appear to be turning into something resembling reality. And when these intrepid explorers book their trips to Costa del Cosmiverse, they will need to make sure they have the right travel insurance policy as it is unlikely their annual multi-trip will cut the mustard.

So is this an interesting opportunity for the travel insurance industry? It certainly could be. The world's first cosmic holidaymaker Dennis Tito took out a £69,000 policy in 2001. What could go wrong though - would the benefits outweigh the risks involved?

I had a chat with LV to see what they thought but I have to admit, I don't think they took me very seriously...

"We are always interested in developing new lines of business, however the underwriting criteria for space trips is somewhat blue sky thinking just at the moment or maybe even beyond. Theoretically speaking should the flight take off from the UK and land in the UK, travellers could benefit from taking out one of our very reasonably priced UK-only policies..."

Space insurance

Still if this really takes off (sorry) then providers may have to seriously start thinking about how they could realistically offer intergalactic cover.

Bupa came out a couple of years ago when the Branson plan was first publicised and said it had some kind of offering in the pipeline so its competitors may wish to hurry up before the health insurer takes hold and dominates another market.

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