On July 11, 2021, when Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin groups went to suborbital space in his company Virgin Galactic owned space ship (named Unity), there was buzz all around whether space tourism is next big thing in space race.
It was followed on July 20, 2021, when Amazon owner and CEO Jeff Bezos spend 11 minutes in his owned company Blue Origin’s spacecraft.
Whether Branson is first tourist to go to space?
With these latest developments, space tourism has created a warm situation about future of space missions and space tourism. But, did you know that Branson is not the first person to go to space. About 20 years back in the year of 2001, an US Millionaire has already done this and achieved the feat of reaching space as a tourist.
On 30 April, 2001 US Millionaire & Enterpreneur Dennis Tito became World’s first space tourist. Those days, NASA was long opposing the idea of sending civilians to space. Tito who started his career as an Astronaut and later turned towards finance had set his goal to go to space in 1961 itself, when Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin reached space and became first person to do so. Seeing NASA’s reluctancy, Tito in 1991 started dealing with Russian, shortly before collapse of USSR.
On April 28, 2001, a Russian Soyuz spaceship lifted off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with Tito on board. He paid around $20 millions for this visit.
After Tito, seven other tourists travelled to space till 2009. Since 2009 no other person went to space as a tourist till Branson broke the ice. NASA, too, since Tito’s trip changed its views and announced plans to open International Space Station for tourists.
There are three people who are making this dream of space tourism a possibility. First one is billionaire Richard Branson, the owner of virgin group. His space tourism agency name is Virgin Galactic. Second person is Amazon ex-owner, Jeff Bezos who owns space tourism agency Blue Origin. Third one with bigger goals is none other than Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and owns spaceX, his space agency.
For last few years, there was a competition between Branson and Bezos to go to space in their own rocket. Jeff Bezos planned to go on 20th July 2021. Branson who had planned it after few months, preponed it and on 11th July 2021, Branson along with 02 Pilots and 03 crew members, flew to space and became first person or tourist to go to space in his own spacecraft.
Technical Details of Spacecrafts:
Branson went to space in a kind of aeroplane, we can call spaceplane. This space plane is attached to a big plane on runway (say mothercraft). The name of this space plane was Unity. At height of 50000 ft, Unity detached from mother craft and went towards space at Supersonic speed. In Bezos’ case, his spacecraft is like a rocket. Bezos’ company claimed that their spacecraft has certain advantages over Bransons’s. They said that their plane has huge windows and also has escape system. Also it is environment friendly. In Virgin Galactic’s case windows are certainly small like ordinary planes and it also doesn’t has escape system. Also its engine emits dangerous gases like nitrous oxide.
Are all space tourisms same?
Answer is a big No. Space tourism includes orbital space tourism and sub-orbital space tourism. Trip to orbital space involves gravity busting high speed takeoffs and longer duration. Whereas, in suborbital space trips, travellers are briefly exposed to weightlessness, zero gravity and views of space. Flights are sent to the edge of atmosphere 60 miles above Earth.
Elon Musk founded SpaceX company’s goal of flying human to Mars will be biggest hitter in orbital space tourism, if successful. In May, 2020 SpaceX’s crew Dragon became first commercial spaceship to send NASA astronauts to space. They have plan to send civilian only journey in 2021. Billionaire Jared Isaacman, CEO of shift4payments, who’ll be one of those on board is funding this trip.
How common can space tourism become in near future?
Virgin Galactic has set its per ticket value at $250000. Around 600 people has already reserved. Branson has hoped that prices will eventually reduce and come down to $40,000 per ticket. But still it will be far from a common man’s reach. It can still take 15 to 20 years for a common man to go to space to spend his holidays.
Blue Origin’s one ticket was auctioned at 28 million dollar in June this year. SpaceX’s ticket to International Space Station was auctioned at 55 million dollars.
How safe is it??
In coming years, when space tourism will become a day to day activity, operators and crew members will become experienced and will learn how to deal with different emergencies. But, these are still early days and with no doubt, it is dangerous. There had been incidents of test flight crashes and what not, so safety will be the concern for initial few years. However, it will be overcomed in coming years.
Also effects of zero gravity has not been studied in a longer term. Behaviour in Zero Gravity by an untrained person will be under radar. Also, radiation level remains high outside our atmosphere, which some studies consider insignificant though. Therefore, safety factor will be in the mind of each and everyone.
Effects on environment!
There will be certain effects on environment. In Virgin Galactic’s case, CO2 emission will be 60 times higher than an ordinary plane. Also, emission of nitrous oxide will cause ozone depletion. There will be extra heat generation causing increase in standard temperatures of earth’s atmosphere. In Bezos’ case also, there will be heat generation.
Many people have already criticized this saying these developments are not for common man, however, degradation of environment will have similar effects on a common man. Also when human-kind are struggling for its existence, the money being utilised by the billionaire for these developments could have been used to fight against pandemic.
What’s there in the future?
There are plans going to build Space Hotel, the construction of which can start in 2026. A stay at this hotel can be a reality by 2027. There are plans to serve space food and also to organise recreational activities like ‘Space Basketball’.
There are many views about these latest developments, but everyone has rights to share their takes . What’s yours??
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