Canadians dreaming about becoming a space tourist are in luck.
A price war appears to be going on between numerous private companies hoping to kick-start the space tourism industry later this year.
Space Expedition Corp. and XCor Aerospace signed a deal with Quebec travel agency Uniktour on Friday to offer suborbital flights to Quebecers. A similar deal is in the works for the rest of the Canadian market and is set to be announced shortly in Toronto.
Uniktour president Philippe Bergeron is already booked for a suborbital flight this December, which could make him the first Canadian to experience the thrill.
"I can't wait to see the black sky during in the day and I can't wait to see the curvature of the Earth and to be propelled by four rocket engines,'' he said Friday.
Bergeron, 33, admitted the price of the package does not include airfare to the launch site, estimating that regular return flight to the spaceport in California would cost about $600.
He will be travelling aboard the Lynx Mark 1 space plane, which is still undergoing tests.
Meanwhile, Space Expedition is offering two packages, both of them including hotel accommodation and astronaut training.
A trip in its Lynx Mark I space plane will cost US$95,000. It will take travellers about 60 kilometres above the Earth where they will experience brief weightlessness during a 45-minute flight.
A chance to ride the Mark II will cost US$100,000. That voyage will last 60 minutes and reach more than 100 kilometres above Earth, with weightlessness lasting a little longer.
Competitor Virgin Galactic is charging $200,000 for a ticket aboard its SpaceShipTwo.
Reinhard Spronk, Space Expedition's chief commercial officer, said his company eventually wants to have four space trips a day.
"Virgin Galactic is one time per day," he added.
Greg Claxton, XCor's retail sales director, says travelling in the Lynx spaceplane is like being a real astronaut because the space tourist gets to act like a co-pilot and will have a view from a front window.
"It's the real 'right-stuff' experience," he said.
Claxton also pointed out that there's a medical check-up before space tourists are allowed to fly.
"If you are claustrophobic or have heart problems, you will be excluded," he added.
He said XCor is hoping to do its test flights this summer — "and if all goes well, it'd be great to start flights in the end of December or early in 2014."