Much more accessible than a real trip around the Earth, thematic trips to space centers are sometimes proposed to the public. In France, the agency Nomade Aventure proposes a unique offer. Interview with its general manager, Fabrice Del Taglia.
What is the "space" offer proposed by Nomade Aventure ?
Nomade Aventure is a tour operator created in 1975, which offers adventure trips, off the beaten track, mainly within nature. They are mostly based on hiking or trekking, sometimes horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, etc. This is obviously very far from space but, in my eyes, there is a common point: space is the greatest adventure today, and it will remain so for a long time. Thus, among the various offers of our catalog, we propose to enthusiasts, but also curious, trips on the theme of space, which are declined in several offers : first of all very thorough visits of space sites, some of which are quite exclusive and impossible to realize by its own means then trips with exceptional accompaniments and finally trips to attend specific events.
Tell us about these behind-the-scenes space trips...
The first trip we created, in 2019, was to Moscow, and went several times until the war in Ukraine broke out. It included a visit to Star City, and not just the museum part that is relatively open to the public, but really the part dedicated to cosmonaut training, with the opportunity to ride in a Soyuz simulator and see the large centrifuge. It is also the occasion to visit in another suburb of Moscow the private museum of the company RKK Energia, which since the sixties builds among others the Russian manned capsules; you can see - and even touch - the capsules of Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Terechkova or Alexeï Leonov. In French Guiana, our travelers will of course visit the Guiana Space Center, and their tour will last two days, whereas the tour open to the general public lasts half a day. It is a complete visit that is proposed, with the integration rooms, all the launch pads, the control room, etc. Its organization required weeks of negotiations with Arianespace and Cnes.
Who are your exceptional companions?
Generally speaking, all our trips are accompanied by local guides, who introduce both the local culture and the country, and who manage the group. On our space trips, they are additionally accompanied by high-flying experts, and in this case all of our trips to Russia in Guiana have been with French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré, who has flown twice with the Russians and handled the arrival of the Russian Soyuz launcher in Guiana. It's still something else when Jean-Pierre Haigneré tells you about life on board the Mir station!
What about one-off events?
We offer trips to attend exceptional launches. We started late last summer for the SLS rocket liftoff from Florida, as part of the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon - and actually invited Air & Cosmos to join us. It was not an easy journey, as the launch was postponed several times. But, even the customers who could not come to all the attempts enjoyed the experience immensely because finally they saw the rocket on its launch pad (less than 6 km away), lived the atmosphere of the countdown, met astronauts or former NASA executives. And in September, we took a group to French Guiana to attend the Ariane 5 VA 258 mission (7.5 km away), which was an exceptional show.
Where did this idea of "space" travels come from?
It's a very personal idea at the outset, stemming from a passion that goes back to my childhood. Even if I branched out a long time ago and gave up on becoming an astronaut or astrophysicist, I had kept this interest in a corner of my head and, when I became the head of Nomade Aventure, I told myself that it would be interesting to offer trips on this theme, simply because it didn't exist. It had existed, in the eighties ten, but since then there was no travel agency in France, and maybe even in Europe, that proposed this theme.
These trips were rewarded last year...
In fact, Nomade received two awards in 2022 from the weekly tourism trade magazine, L'Echo Touristique, which has been organizing the Trophées de l'innovation du Tourisme since 2013: A prize for our travels in which we suggest taking the train rather than the plane to nearby European destinations (Albania, Italy, Scotland, etc.), and a prize rewarding our range of space travel, for its uniqueness.
Travels that are nevertheless responsible...
Giving the most sustainable character possible to our travels is an imperative for us. We absolutely do not give up flying, on the one hand because to date there is no alternative on the long haul, and on the other hand because we deeply believe in the usefulness of tourism, including for the development of the southern country, but also for the protection of nature in these countries. Because tourism brings in revenues which, if they did not exist, would necessarily be replaced by other forms of exploitation of nature or people. Nevertheless, flying emits greenhouse gases, and we absorb 100 % of the emissions related to the flights and ground services of our trips, funding massively since 2018 mangrove planting programs in India and Indonesia. We can't claim that our trips are " carbon-neutral " because the phrase doesn't make sense in a business, but we at least strive to balance our travel emissions with these absorptions, even if they take a few years to achieve.
Also, what is your opinion on space tourism?
Space tourism, after being promised and postponed for a long time, has become more and more concrete in recent years, while at the same time public sensitivity has increased, especially on environmental issues. Private spaceflight has thus come of age at a time when a large part of the public considers it to be wasteful, polluting, etc. In reality, when we look at the figures for greenhouse gas emissions from these launches, they are more than marginal, but it is true that the activity represents the quintessential leisure activity of the billionaire or millionaire, useless and oversold for its pseudo ethical virtues by the companies that put forward the overview effect, the fact of seeing the planet from the outside which makes one aware of its fragility and want to protect it - and it's true that it's not necessarily necessary to go into space to have this conviction. So the timing is not very good today but, in the long term, I think that the development of space tourism is quite inevitable, in the same way that I imagine that at the beginning of aviation we did not imagine that it would allow to travel for pleasure around the world, it took several years. On the one hand, it will be necessary to overcome this feeling of the general public about waste and pollution, and on the other hand to avoid accidents, or at least to know how to manage them.
What new trips are you preparing on the space theme?
Next April, we are proposing two trips in this framework. The first one will go through the main emblematic sites of the space conquest in the United States, Washington, Houston and Cape Canaveral, this time in the presence of the French astronaut, Michel Tognini. The second will allow us to witness the penultimate flight of an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, which will also carry a particularly precious piece of luggage: the European planetary probe Juice, which is due to reach the moons of Jupiter in the early 2030s. The journey is again accompanied by Jean-Pierre Haigneré. And then, next year (in principle in the spring of 2024), the big launch it will be that of the Artemis 2 mission, the first manned mission to the Moon since 1972 ; there we have a long waiting list of interested people...
The full version of the interview (in French) can be seen on the YouTube channel of Air & Cosmos: https://youtu.be/S8oQf4LH3zw
For more information on Nomade Aventure's offer, visit its website : www.nomade-aventure.com
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