Space travel for non-astronauts was but a distant dream a few years ago - space was only for astronauts: highly skilled individuals hand picked to be further trained on the exhausting habits of dealing with and living in space for longs periods of time performing methodical scientific tasks.
However, space tourism is now closer than ever, and you’re not expected to be a billionaire in order to pull it off.
SpaceX and human expansion
SpaceX was created by Elon Musk in 2002, aiming to drastically reduce the cost of space travel by implementing a reusable rocket.
The CEO wants to allow human expansion in space to prevent human extinction:
At $35 million to manufacture, it's already four times cheaper than comparable single-use vehicles from Boeing or Lockheed. (...) This has the potential to bring the per-launch price down to about $1 million, a hundredfold improvement over current costs. And if that happens, life will become sustainably multi planetary in less than a century. - Elon Musk (Esquire)
Elon Musk has already revealed his plan to have the first human colony landing on Mars by the year 2025, having technical support from NASA confirmed. Of course, they will first send several unmanned crafts to experiment on Mars’ surface and atmosphere. NASA has no plans to send people to Mars before the 2030’s. (Washington Post)
According to Musk, until the next unmanned launch, many companies will have interest in taking advantage of the launch to perform experiments on Mars.
The CEO has also been very careful even with testing, reportedly canceling the flight of a Falcon 9 rocket after the system was “green” to liftoff. There was only a minor steering anomaly, but he publicly explained on Twitter: "(...) that 1% chance isn't worth rolling the dice. Better to wait a day.”
While SpaceX is focusing more on human expansion rather than tourism, other companies like Virgin Galactic aims to offer suborbital flights to space tourists, and orbital flights coming soon enough. They reportedly charge something around $250,000 for reservations.
However, there have been many delays on Virgin Galactic’s plans, and one fatal incident during testing killed a co-pilot and gravely injured the pilot, leading to fear that space tourism is still far away from being safe.
Blue Origin is another company looking to provide private human access to space, currently testing and developing spacecrafts for that very goal. The first manned flights are expected to start in 2017, with commercial flights starting in 2018. (Blue Origin)
Both these companies follow the same principle SpaceX did for its rocket - the idea of having a reusable launch system to greatly diminish costs, and therefore, facilitating private access.
Blue Origin has successfully launched and reused the New Shepard 2 spacecraft five times.
These developments are highly encouraging that we may colonize other planets before the turn of the next century and that space tourism will be considered safe and accessible within a couple of decades.
We leave you with the words of Elon Musk on why he believes space travel is such an important investment - a speech eerily similar to that of Michael Caine in the science-fiction movie Interstellar: “We’re not meant to save Earth, we’re meant to leave it.”
Looking at it now, it doesn’t sound so “fiction” after all.
An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. (...) Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct. - Elon Musk
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