Why Space Tourism Will Fall Flat

Not many average people will be doing this anytime soon. Photo: Virgin Galactic

The billionaire space race is in full swing, with Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos both launching into the atmosphere — and one lucky (and rich) 18-year-old along for the ride with the latter billionaire. But on the latest Pivot podcast, Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher are skeptical that average earthlings will be flocking to the outer reaches anytime soon.

Scott Galloway: So my prediction this week is a little overdone, but I’m going to make it anyway. I think Virgin Galactic is going to be the poster child for the SPAC and the space bubble.

Kara Swisher: Poster child, good or bad?


Twice weekly, Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher host Pivot, a New York Magazine podcast about business, technology, and politics.

Galloway: Bad. I mean, there’s just so much writing on the wall that this thing is not going to work. First off, as a strategy, I just think space tourism makes no sense. I think we put astronauts and equipment into rockets. I don’t think we put tourists in the rockets. But in addition, Chamath Palihapitiya is a very smart guy. He sold his entire stake in this in March. And Richard Branson, by the way, has sold $800 million worth of stock in it to fund his other ventures. So two people who I think are very smart and know the company very well have both said, “Yeah, great. We’re out. We’re going to vote with our wallet and we’re not voting for the company.”

And two, do you realize that since they took that flight last Sunday, the stock has lost a third of its value? And I think the reason why — everyone’s trying to figure out, well, is it because of the $500 million secondary? I think it’s because of the following: There was a clip of them once they were in space and I think what they’ve pulled off is remarkable. The entire world saw this thing. I mean, that’s just PR you can’t turn off. Okay, but what does it mean when 7 billion people, or call it 2 or 3 billion people, are exposed to your product and know that this product is out there. This is what it looks like. It costs a quarter of a million dollars. And they’ve got a waiting list of 600 people. I taught 1,400 people last night. Six hundred people is nothing. So what they have here is the mother of all product-market misfits. Nobody wants this fucking thing.

Swisher: If it was cheaper, you would. If you dropped the price, you would, right? If it was $200 …

Galloway: The capsule holds four people. How low can they take it?

Swisher: Space is expensive.

Galloway: There’s billions of particles in every square foot on earth. There’s one in space because space wants to destroy all life and all matter. That’s why they call it space.

Swisher: Space wants to kill you.

Galloway: But my prediction is that within six months, you’re going to see a pivot. They’re going to start talking about point-to-point supersonic travel or space cargo. They do have a space cargo or a space-hauling division. But if you look at the stock, if you look at the very smart people who have sold their shares, if you look at the product-market fit, if you look at the awareness and the anemic sign up they have — people saw Richard Branson in space floating for two minutes. And that’s not worth $25,000, much less a quarter of a million.

Swisher: You know what I say?

Galloway: What do you say?

Swisher: This is critical space theory.

Galloway: Critical space theory.

Swisher: That’s a joke on the internet.

Galloway: Oh gosh, that is a good one.

Swisher: I think you’re right. The space tourism idea is correct. I think this is a great prediction.

Galloway: No, it’ll become a poster child for … It was one of the first SPACs. Chamath is the king or the visionary around SPACs. He was involved here, but I just look at this thing and I’m like, “The product-market fit doesn’t make any sense. Structurally, doesn’t make any sense. Their strategy doesn’t make any sense.”

Swisher: Well, let me ask you one question. How much money would you pay to go into space? What’s the most you would pay?

Galloway: I don’t know. It doesn’t really appeal to me. I get motion sickness. I’m on planes way too much, the only thing not wonderful about my life. I guess at some point, if it’s totally bulletproof … Supposedly, you have sort of a moment, a spiritual moment when you see Earth from the Kármán line, I would like to experience that. I can get 80 percent of that with edibles and not leave my couch. I don’t know. Doesn’t appeal to me. Does it appeal to you, Kara?

Swisher: No, not at all. I don’t want to get in any spaceship ever, ever, ever. I’m going to stick it out on this poor little planet. That’s what I’m doing. I’m staying on this ride.

Galloway: I like it here. I don’t want to go to the Kármán line. I’m going to go to St. Barts.

Pivot is produced by Caroline Schagrin. 

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Why Space Tourism Will Fall Flat