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Imagine you were living the dream of almost every child on Earth. You’re snug inside your Kevlar suit, wearing your fishbowl helmet, and someone straps you into your chair and seals the capsule's hatch. Then, all of a sudden, you feel the cabin rumble. The rocket engines underneath your capsule roar to life. You stare out of the window, watching the sky turn from light blue, to navy, to pitch black. You’ve just joined an exclusive club of humans who have left terra firma to stare back at the little rock you call home.

“You’re looking at a big blue sphere,” says Gregory Olsen, Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the Keller Center at the University and the third-ever self-funded astronaut. “And you know, you’re seeing this big blue sphere slowly recede in the distance, and you’re thinking, wow, that’s, that’s the world!”

Olsen — and only four others after him — joined an elite list of entrepreneurs and inventors who paid top dollar for their ticket to the stars. After selling his company Sensors Unlimited Inc., a firm that made near-infrared cameras for NASA, Olsen was able to purchase the $20 million fare to board the Russian Soyuz, taking him on a 10-day trip to the International Space Station.

Lifting off from Kazakhstan in October 2005, Olsen’s flight symbolized more than just a new type of vacation, but a new industry altogether: space tourism.

Listen to the full audio profile here.


Hector Afonso Cruz

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