Space 'lift' could take tourists into orbit within 40 years

Space 'lift' could take tourists into orbit within 40 yearsA generic image of what the space elevator might look like. Photo: Nasa

A space elevator that could take tourists 22,000 miles into orbit could be a reality within 40 years.

Japanese scientists are drawing up plans for the lift that could give up to 30 passengers the trip of a lifetime, spending a week travelling a quarter of the way to the moon at speeds of 120mph, according to the Daily Mail.

There wouldn't even be training required for the adventure, which would give space fans an astronaut's view of the Earth from a space station at its destination.

The project's creator, Satomi Katsuyama, told the paper: "Humans have long adored high towers. But rather than building it from the earth, we will construct it from space."

If realised, the plans would cost around £6 billion - but the location for its base and who might fund it are still in question.

Suggestions for a launch pad have included a platform in the ocean off Ecuador because of its location near the equator and closer to the orbit.

Should Richard Branson be worried? The Virgin boss opened the world's first spaceport, which will blast tourists into another world for £125,000 a ticket, back in October 2011.

Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic will stage its commercial space tourism venture from Spaceport America in a remote patch of desert in southern New Mexico.

Virgin Galactic are now finalising its rocket testing, and says it hopes enough testing can be done by the end of 2012 to start commercial suborbital flights from the spaceport in 2013.

Branson and his children, Sam and Holly, who will be the first commercial passengers on SpaceShipTwo, officially named the world's first purpose-built spaceline terminal as the 'Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space'.

Around 450 people - including comedian Russell Brand - have signed up to for space flight tickets, and around 150 of them attended the ceremony, where guests were treated to a flyover by WhiteKnightTwo - the mothership that will help take space tourists on suborbital flights.

The flights will last two-and-a-half hours and will allow everyday people (albeit very rich ones) to experience about five minutes of weightlessness and views of Earth that until now only astronauts have been able to experience.

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