CAPE CANAVERAL, FL—Despite having never visited outer space before in his life and being completely free from the everyday demands of work, family, and gravity, space tourist Dick Knowles spent his entire 19-day, $7 million vacation holed up inside the space shuttle Atlantis, sources reported Monday.
An increasingly popular destination among dozens of American, Russian, and Chinese travelers each year, space is quickly acquiring a reputation for its infinite number of attractions and sights. However, according to friends and family members speaking for the first time since Knowles' trip in June, the 47-year-old billionaire investor never once ventured more than a few feet outside his oxygen-filled cabin.
"What's the point of training for months and traveling 3 million miles if you're just going to sit around some orbital craft all day?" friend and entrepreneur Jeffrey Plotnick said. "I hear that the universe is a great place for exploring. For all he did, Dick might as well have stayed home in Texas."
"He didn't even visit the moon, for Christ's sake," Plotnick added. "Who goes to space and doesn't visit the moon?"
Knowles, who reportedly spent his first day in space recovering from "severe jet lag," and most of his second day trying to make contact with relatives back home, is believed to have seen only 9.23 x 10-18 of what the Milky Way galaxy alone has to offer during his interstellar stay.
Attorney and golfing partner Steven Margolin said he was also disappointed to learn that Knowles dined on prepackaged meals of thermostabilized chicken and dehydrated cheese rather than sampling the local cuisine.
"Do you know what he said his favorite part of the trip was? Gazing at the Earth," Margolin said. "Not going to Mars, or flying through an asteroid belt, or even checking out one of those black holes, but 'gazing at the Earth.' Way to broaden your horizons, pal."
Though Knowles told friends back home that he was repeatedly warned of the dangers of journeying outside the shuttle, many, such as heiress and art collector Lucy DeWilde, believe he could have "veered off the beaten path" on occasion.
"Why travel if you're going to be too scared to try anything fun?" DeWilde said. "You shouldn't be foolish or take unnecessary risks, but what's the harm in an innocent little space walk?"
When Knowles' brother Larry picked him up from the Kennedy Space Center, he expected to be regaled with exciting and fantastic stories from Dick's adventures. Instead, he was shocked to learn that Knowles failed to meet or interact with anyone during his vacation who was not also from Earth.
"I had all these questions about the universe I was hoping Dick would be able to answer when he got back, but he didn't seem to know what I was talking about half the time," Larry Knowles said. "The weirdest part is that when you ask Dick about his trip, he says he had the time of his life."
"To each his own, I guess," he added.