Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation

Department

College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Scott R. Winter, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Stephen Rice, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Joseph R. Keebler, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Keith J. Ruskin, M.D.

Abstract

Suborbital space tourism involves flight in an air vehicle to an altitude exceeding 100 kilometers (62 miles). This altitude is referred to as the Karman Line and the edge of space. Point-to-point space travel is transportation in an air vehicle where the vehicle flies around the earth in space to decrease the time to travel from one point on the earth’s surface to another point on the earth’s surface. The commercial space flight industry has a vision for point-to-point space travel.

The study aimed to assess the influence of the four dimensions of Iso-Ahola’s (1982) theory of tourism motivation on willingness to fly as a point-to-point suborbital space tourist. The theory of tourism motivation was the primary theoretical construct for this study. Age, gender, and annual gross income served as control variables.

A quantitative methodology and non-experimental, cross-sectional study design was executed using 870 participants from Amazon’s ® Mechanical Turk ®. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze the survey results to test the proposed theoretical model.

The study revealed that, in order of effect size, interpersonal seeking, personal seeking, and interpersonal escape influenced willingness to fly as a point-to-point suborbital space tourist. Iso-Ahola’s original (1982) theory of tourism motivation proposed that tourism has two motivational forces: seeking and escaping. A person may seek to visit a location or engage in a leisure activity that produces satisfaction or escape a current environment for a location or leisure activity that produces satisfaction. The results of this study suggest seeking is predominant within these dialectic motivational forces as interpersonal seeking and personal seeking had the greatest direct standardized effect on willingness to fly. Additionally, the theory also applies a personal or interpersonal dimension. The study suggests that interpersonal is the predominant dimension as personal escape did not have a statistically significant influence on willingness to fly, and interpersonal seeking and interpersonal escape did. The control variable, annual gross income, did not have a statistically significant effect on willingness to fly. Age and gender did have a slightly negative statistically significant effect on willingness to fly but did not contribute significantly to the final model. The squared multiple correlations (R2 ) for the endogenous (predicted) variable, willingness to fly, was 0.402; the model demonstrated, in order of effect, interpersonal seeking, personal seeking, and interpersonal escape explain 40% of the variance in willingness to fly as a point-to-point suborbital space tourist.

The study created a model to assess tourists’ motivation toward a willingness to fly as a point-to-point suborbital space tourist. The partial validation of the theory of tourism motivation and willingness to fly scale provides application in future space tourism research. Finally, from a practical perspective, the results provide validated data to target marketing to policymakers and potential point-to-point space tourists and investors.

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