Launching Hawaii tourism from the sand to the stars


Hawaii won’t win the race to become the first state with space tourism, but in a new twist, it probably will be the first place where travelers can use the planes for real transportation. Hawaii’s planes would take off in one place and land in another – from an airport on the Big Island to a landing on Oahu, taking island-hopping to new heights.

Within a decade, space travelers could island hop from Hawaii to Japan in 45 minutes. And promoters promise a unique perspective during the flight.

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“Flying down the Hawaii island chain, it’s a completely different view of the planet than you’ll see when you launch from landlocked states,” said Chuck Lauer, vice president of business development for Oklahoma City-based Rocketplane Global. “It’s the blue planet view of the world.”

Hawaii’s tourism leaders recognize the potential for attracting visitors with the promise of space travel, but it’s unclear whether Governor Linda Lingle will release the licensing money at a time when the state is facing big budget problems and possible government employee layoffs. A new law authorizes the state to spend US$500,000 to apply for a spaceport license from the federal government, which is the first step toward allowing commercial space travel from the islands.

Lingle has indicated she will either sign the legislation this month or let it become law without her signature. But she has the authority to withhold the money even after the bill becomes law.