The year was 1961. Behind the Iron Curtain, the USSR was preparing to launch Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to space while NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) scrambled to keep up.
The “space race” did more than catch the world’s attention, and it kept us looking to the stars for years to come. Since then, NASA and its counterparts continued to improve their hardware, leading to Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for humanity.
Eventually, the Cold War fizzled into broken walls, and the race between the US and the former Soviet Union ended. This thawing of relations between the two powers led to the creation of the International Space Station.
Initially designed for research, the ISS (or that Lego looking thing floating in space) is now economically valuable to life on Earth, mainly through privately owned satellites for communication and GPS features.
Although, we are far from the space-based economy NASA predicted could sustain a self-sufficient human population living outside Earth. (The closest we’ve come to that vision is the *mighty feat* of 13 people in space at the one time.)
Today, spaceflight is not reserved for the realm of science fiction but is fast becoming a reality. That doesn’t mean you’ll be chopping wood with lightsabers and soaring through the galaxy at light-speed anytime soon since it still requires a truckload of money to step your Extravehicular Mobility Unit onto another planet.
If you have a spare 55 million dollars lying around, feel free to book a flight with Axiom Space for a seat on the Space X capsule; $250 thousand could get you a ticket with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic enterprise… if that’s more your speed. Or maybe you’d rather be Jeff Bezos’ co-passenger with the help of his Blue Origin space travel company for a steal at $28 million!
Fancy rocketing to Mars to see what all the fuss is about? 🚀
Give Elon Musk’s SpaceX a try. Why dedicate your life to being a NASA astronaut when space shuttle rides are about to become mass transit for the elite.
Whatever your opinion is about billionaires and the pitfalls of wealth, you can’t deny that making space tourism possible is an admirable goal, especially for private citizens. The question now is, will we be alive to see it happen?
Is space travel the new frontier?
Human spaceflight is nothing new. Texas, home to NASA’s training school for professional astronauts, can attest to that. What’s different, however, is the increased number of private companies interested in monetising space travel.
It feels like just yesterday when the Arctic was the least explored area on Earth. Now, space adventures are replacing expeditions to the North and South Pole. Some might call these kinds of missions premature, though.
There’s scientific evidence to suggest that vast portions of the Earth’s ocean remain unexplored. In some ways, this makes star-gazing seem like a futuristic fantasy, the neglect of our blue planet in search of something else. Like a child bored of their toy from last Christmas.
That doesn’t discount the fact that space exploration is a logical next step for our species.
Since Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the world while battling towering waves and scurvy, no expedition stands to change our lives the way space travel does.
Beyond enjoying the weightlessness and endless possibilities of the cosmos, space programs are continuously striving to discover new technology, including the deployment of low earth orbit satellites — some of which enhance life on Earth.
(Guess they wanted to give us a hand, after all.)
True, it’ll take at least a few more years before we’re hopping on our starships and sipping lattes on Mars, but space agencies and companies across the globe are on the cusp of making this a reality.
How much space can we see?
Some theorise that space is constantly expanding, so giving a definite answer is kind of impossible. However, current estimates suggest that scientists have managed to map out 4% of our universe. Figuring out how to explore the rest is the next challenge.
Here’s to hoping we’ll find out the answer in our lifetime. 🌌 🌟
Launchpads, countdowns, and giant exhausts
Before we go boldly where no man has gone before, like Captain James Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, we should ask ourselves if it’s worth sacrificing our current planet.
Spaceships in science fiction run primarily on propulsion systems powered by imagination and rarely by logic.
We don’t have that luxury.
Increasing the number of forays into space (either public or private), spaceflights will adversely affect the environment, particularly if jet fuel remains the primary energy source.
Like in the early 20th century, when the rise in access to private cars and other modes of transportation led to an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions — space tourism could also threaten the ozone layer.
Having the chance to vacate Earth and its “oppressive” gravity is all well and good, but we still have to make sure we have a liveable planet when we return.
Since the Cold War, Russia and the United States have come up against new playmates in the space race. JAXA (the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency), founded by University of Tokyo alums and the ESA or European Space Agency, to name a few.
With so many public and private agencies working together, we can only hope an eco-friendly solution to getting us into space is on the horizon.
Edge of space: a new tourist destination?
What do Jared Isaacman, Anousheh Ansari, and Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa have in common? Aside from massive bank accounts, they went or are about to go to space, thanks to the power of money.
Isaacman, in partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, will be the pilot of the first completely private spaceflight in a Crew Dragon Capsule designed by the company. This flight is also for the benefit of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Aside from being the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman in space, Ansari was only the fourth self-funded space tourist to travel to the International Space Station.
Maezawa, for his part, plans to pay the ISS a visit aboard the Russian Soyuz. Ironically, his trip is courtesy of American company Space Adventures.
Started by Dennis Tito, the first space tourist — launching into the atmosphere for a holiday is becoming a trend among the elite, but will we ever get that chance?
Test flights by companies like SpaceX and Amazon’s offshoot, Blue Origin, are ongoing — on a mission to make space tourism available to the public. Among the vehicles is New Shepard, a vessel designed for suborbital flights, hoping to transport space tourists out of this world.
If you want to add “going to space” to your bucket list, you’ll have to spend money — a lot. But companies like Axiom Space are trying to make it affordable. With more improvement in current tech, spaceflight, like airfare, might be accessible to ordinary people in the future.
Sure, Earth is full of natural wonders and vacation spots that offer respite from our 9 to 5 grind, but touring space is still a new phenomenon, a hot commodity — a once in a lifetime experience to spend money on (if you have a big enough wallet).
Into the unknown
Since the dawn of time, man (and woman) has looked up to the stars.
We developed a curious instinct and desire to know more about the universe beyond our reach. And, over the past half-century, we have charted those same skies that we used to gaze upon in astonishment.
Almost every child on the planet dreams of being an astronaut at one point in their life. Some might outgrow that dream, but the continual references to space in science fiction and pop culture say otherwise.
Today, billionaires are the only ones with the means to book spaceflights, but one day, you might have the chance yourself — time to practice your moonwalk.