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Annette Toivonen.

Dissertation: Sustainable development in the New Space tourism industry


Annette Toivonen, M.Soc.Sc., has conducted an internationally ground-breaking study of space tourism. The author presents alternative ways to include sustainable development in the commercial New Space tourism industry

At the turn of the millennium, a significant step forward was taken in the space tourism development. The New Space business evolved, and private space companies joined the traditional Old Space governmental led space activities. The pioneering companies, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, started their first space tourism flights in 2021. It is predicted that New Space tourism industry will evolve into a multi-billion-dollar business in the future.

While space tourism provides the postmodern tourist with new experiences, international climate reports paint a grim picture of the future and sustainable development is emphasised more than ever. More environmentally friendly industrial solutions are sought in the areas of energy and emissions, and the significance of societal responsibility and legislation is growing. Toivonen investigated this challenging situation to assess the chances of the New Space tourism industry to operate according to the principle of sustainable development.

Future scenarios for the New Space tourism industry

The growth of tourism also increases its adverse environmental effects. In fact, Toivonen stresses that the New Space tourism industry should from the start follow already established practices of sustainability in tourism industry. There are ways to enhance the sustainability of New Space tourism industry.

– I’d like to emphasise three of the most important ways to support sustainability: creating internationally binding space legislation, promoting aspects of global communal fairness and advancing the development of virtual and space technologies that as a side product also assist in the prevention of climate change on Earth, Toivonen notes.

Of these, technology with its various virtual worlds offers possibilities for the creation of alternative ways to experience mass space tourism – particularly as the physical space tourism experience is only available to the wealthiest of tourists.

Finland’s role in advancing sustainable space business

The development of small satellites and the progress of commercial space business made it possible for Finland to join the traditional space nations in 2017.

– Finland could include Northern Lights tourism also in its international New Space agenda. As a terrestrial space experience, it is already intertwined with sustainability and could be boosted with technological innovations, Toivonen adds.

One of the goals of Finnish space strategy is to create a competitive environment for future commercial space business by emphasising operating models that comply with sustainable development.

Information on the public examination

The academic dissertation “The emergence of New Space: A grounded theory study of enhancing sustainability in space tourism from the view of Finland” by Annette Toivonen, M.Soc.Sc., will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland on Friday 22 April starting 9:00 in lecture hall 3 (Yliopistonkatu 8, LS3). The opponent is Associate Professor Ian Yeoman from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and the custos is Professor Outi Rantala from the University of Lapland.

You may follow the public examination online at

Coffee will be served in Restaurant Felli after the session.

Information on the doctoral candidate

Annette Toivonen works as a senior lecturer of tourism business at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. She is a renowned Finnish expert on sustainable space tourism and has written a book on the topic titled “Sustainable Space Tourism: An Introduction” (2020, UK). Toivonen is also a visiting chief editor of a special space tourism issue of the journal Integrated Environmental Assessment Management (USA).

Further information
Annette Toivonen
Phone: +358 456 349 519

Information on the publication

Annette Toivonen: The emergence of New Space: A grounded theory study of enhancing sustainability in space tourism from the view of Finland. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 336. ISBN: ISBN 978-952-337-288-7, ISSN 1796-6310. University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 2022.

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