Space tourism was initially a hopeful concept, one focused on increasing access for ordinary citizens to visit space. However, the modern space tourism industry looks different as early ticket sales by Virgin Galactic ranged from $200,000-$250,000; Blue Origin has not announced ticket prices, but it recently sold one seat for $28 million as part of a charity auction. This obviously prices access to space well outside the range of all but the ultra-wealthy; it's one of the primary criticisms of space tourism today.
Part of the reason spaceflight is so expensive is that just a few people are carried at a time. "If you want to get to get the price from $250,000 down to four digits, like an airline, you have to spread it over far more bodies," Ron Epstein, an aerospace analyst with Bank of America told CNN. But it might be decades before companies get to that point. The costs for fuel and energy currently don't make it feasible to offer space travel to large numbers of people.
Another complaint is that the funds spent on spaceflight might be better spent elsewhere such as solving problems here on Earth. Alan Ladwig, author of "See You in Orbit? Our Dream of Spaceflight", says this commentary is not without basis – or historical precedent as people said the same thing about NASA. "There has been criticism that money spent in space would be better applied to other societal needs. This has been a matter of debate for a range of space activities for the past 60 years and is not likely to change regardless of what happens with space tourism," he says. And several items we take for granted like memory foam, insulin pumps and scratch-resistant eyeglass lenses, came from NASA inventions.
Finally, space tourism (and launch technology in general) is criticized for its environmental impact. "The most often talked about 'harm' involves pollution caused by black carbon from some spacecraft engines," Ladwig explains. "Virgin Galactic has downplayed this problem [saying its impact on climate change is minor and that it] also plans to invest in sustainable fuels for the future. Blue Origin's engines rely on liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that combusts as water vapor. However, critics note that it still takes electricity to manufacture the fuels."
Right now, the number of flights to space are few, so carbon dioxide emissions are negligible, compared with airplane flights. But what happens when that number increases? Virgin hopes to have 400 flights a year by the end of the decade, the Wall Street Journal reported. And unlike the other two companies, SpaceX will achieve orbit when it takes four private citizens into space in September using its F9 rocket, which "calculations show puts out the equivalent of 395 transatlantic flights-worth of carbon emissions," reported Phys.org.