Is “space tour guide” in your professional future?

Last week the British consultancy Fast Future released a government-commission report titled “The shape of jobs to come”. The purpose of the report was to identify potential new careers enabled by advances in science and technology. The report featured 20 such future careers (summarized in a separate fact sheet), ranging from “memory augmentation surgeon” to “weather modification police”. Included in that list is “space pilots, tour guides, and architects”:

With companies already promising space tourism, we will need space pilots and tour guides, as well as architects to design where they will live and work. Current projects at SICSA (University of Houston) include a greenhouse on Mars, lunar outposts and space exploration vehicles.

“Space pilot” is pretty easy to understand, as is “space architect”, even if that might seem a little too forward leaning. But what exactly would a “space tour guide” do? Here’s how the report explains it:

Space tour guides will draw on cosmology, astronomy, space science, geography, history and geology to help passengers get the most out of their journey. While the factual side of the tour is important, space guides also need to be excellent storytellers and imaginers to help inspire their charges and encourage them to experience the true awe of space travel. Regular tour guides will need to undergo a similar level of physical and mental preparation and testing as pilots before each trip.

That seems a little much, at least for suborbital flights when customers will only be spending minutes in space and weightlessness. However, there may be the need for the equivalent of flight attendants to guide customers, particularly on flights where people are able to float around the cabin during weightless portion of their flights. (Interestingly, the animations of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo flight experiment don’t include this, although ZERO-G does have flight attendants for their parabolic airplane flights.) Once there are regular orbital tourist flights and facilities to host customers in orbit, then we may see the need for such guides, although as much for safety reasons as for enhancing the tourist experience.

One other interesting aspect of the study is that the job category is the space jobs category is relatively interesting to the public. Asked to name their three most popular job categories in a poll, 19% of UK respondents and 24% of Europeans picked the category, good enough for fifth-highest among Europeans. The job category also ranked in the top five among both Britons and Europeans in terms of having the greatest impact on innovation and economic growth, as well as being the best paid (presumably the former justifying the latter). Finally, the category ranked first among “most aspirational” jobs; the report didn’t explicitly define what it meant to be “aspirational”.

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