Yesterday I met with Jane Reifert of Incredible Adventures, the company that has been organizing MiG flights and other adventures since the mid-90s. Incredible Adventures is a small outfit – just four people full-time, including one in Russia. But it has an impressive range of partners, from the Russian Space Agency to Hollywood Movie Makers.
“I live and die by waivers!” says Reifert, who spends almost as much time with insurance agents and lawyers as with customers. For some reason, she notes, you can insure people swimming in shark-infested waters, but you can’t insure people inside shark cages. Presumably, that’s a pricing problem: The cages don’t have a record (yet) to persuade the insurers to lower their prices, so the insurers simply don’t set a rate. But it’s a good example of the challenges all these providers face.
She adds, “The space people keep trying to convince everyone that space is safe. But it’s not! And I’m not sure that the people who sign up for edge-of-space trips want it to be. You don’t go bungee-jumping because it’s safe! You go because it’s exciting!” So it may be that space marketing – at least until it goes mainstream – doesn’t need to or even should not stress safety – though of course the operators should do their best to provide it anyway.
Reifert also scoffs at the notion that space travelers will need ground arrangements for their families. Over the years, Incredible Adventures has arranged more than 2000 MIG flights for its customers, quite a few of them repeats. But most of them travel to Russia alone, she says, or with a sporting buddy. But of course the MiGs have room for only one passenger, whereas Virgin Galactic can take up a whole family. I suspect both models will work… Of course there’s more money long-term in the value-added one, but I suspect that Incredible Adventures’ profit margin would put that of most companies to shame.
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