Ride of A Lifetime: A Netnographic Research to Unveil the Leisure Experience Attached to Orbital Space Tourism

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Ao, Jingning
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Middle Tennessee State University
People tend to have different motivations when selecting a travel destination. While traveling to space becomes increasingly feasible as the technology advances, there is relatively few research communicates what people can experience about leisure travel in space. Understanding the leisure properties of space travel could potentially help the business development of space tourism. Therefore, the primary purpose of this study is to explore the following: When people travel to outer space, what properties of leisure experiences attached to orbital space tourism could potentially attract tourists? In this study, leisure perception serves as the theoretical foundation; the theory of a multi-phase experience provides an analytical tool to construct the experience of space tourism. A netnographic research method is applied to obtain authentic descriptions about space travel experience from the most popular Tweets posted by 36 NASA astronauts in Twitter. The selected 3,468 Tweets indicate that the public shows interests in both in-space and off-site experiences. Moreover, research findings highlight the trip to space as a dynamic and multi-phasic experience with its context. Specifically, the identified key patterns, including training, liftoff, in-space, reentry, and memory, are formed into five stages of orbital space travel. Each stage has its unforgettable experiences and unique leisure attributes. This study hopes to fill the gap in current academic literatures of space tourism, and lay the foundation for formulating marketing strategies for space tourism business. Therefore, people do not have to be fully competent as professional astronauts to desire space travel in the future. Instead, a space tourist as amateur astronaut can expect her space trip with multi-phasic leisure experiences as the ride of a lifetime.