Commercializing Space

Space Tourism

Space tourism according to Wikipedia is:

"human space travel for recreational purposes. There are several different types of space tourism, including orbital, suborbital and lunar space tourism. To date, orbital space tourism has been performed only by the Russian Space Agency.Work also continues towards developing suborbital space tourism vehicles. This is being done by aerospace companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. In addition, SpaceX (an aerospace manufacturer) announced in 2018 that they are planning on sending space tourists, including Yusaku Maezawa, on a free-return trajectory around the Moon on the Starship."

Today we will take a small trip down memory lane, discuss the major achievements in Space Travel so far, and wrap it up with a few things that are in store down the line.

History

Ever since the ancient times, we have been fascinated with the stars. From ancient philosophers to people devoting their lives in mapping the night sky, the idea of traveling into space and other planets exists almost as soon as we realized that there are other planets out there. I will spare you from the boring parts, and we will start from the good parts. Ironically it was the development of large and relatively efficient rockets during the mid-twentieth century that allowed physical space exploration to become a reality. Common rationales for exploring space include advancing scientific research, national prestige, uniting different nations, ensuring the future survival of humanity, and developing military and strategic advantages against other countries.

And yet the real advancement started in the Cold War, between U.S.A and the Soviet Union. Aerospace posted a brief and interesting history of the most important events in space travel. From the moon landing to the international space station however, there have been a fair share of tragedies.
Encyclopedia Britannica in their article on the matter has listed such events. Things like, the tragedy of the Challenger and Columbia or the Apollo-Soyuz Poisonous Gas Leak incident have been severe obstacles in our quest for the stars, and non-scientific space excursions have taken more and more delays since the formation of the world space programs.

However, more than a decade has passed since the last major tragedy, and the advancements in technology as well as the accumulated expertise has made space travel safer than ever before.

Commercial Travel

Space tourism is no longer a thing of the past. In an article by revfine Space Tourism is defined as "the activity of travelling into space for recreational purposes. It is sometimes referred to as citizen space exploration, personal spaceflight, or commercial human spaceflight, and it covers spaceflights which are sub-orbital, orbital, and even beyond Earth orbit, while some definitions also include hypothetical future spaceflights that are undertaken for business purposes".

Surprisingly Space Tourism is not a new concept. Though it still seems as distant as any science fiction novel, it has actually been around since the early 2000's by the Russian Space Agency. However, in modern years, space tourism is mostly upheld by private corporations like Virgin Galactic, Space X and Orion Span, to name but a few.

To make matters better, since June 2019, The Verge reports that NASA is opening up the International Space Station for commercial flights. In fact, as the article reads: "A new interim directive from NASA allows private companies to buy time and space on the ISS for producing, marketing, or testing their products. It also allows those companies to use resources on the ISS for commercial purposes, even making use of NASA astronauts’ time and expertise (but not their likeness). If companies want, they can even send their own astronauts to the ISS, starting as early as 2020, but all of these activities come with a hefty price tag".

And indeed SpaceX already jumped on the idea announcing around early March 2020, that they will be sending three tourists in the ISS (International Space Station) next year. In an article by The Verge we read that SpaceX has spent the last few years building a new version of its Dragon spacecraft to send NASA astronauts to the ISS. But the company is increasingly embracing space tourism as a potential revenue stream, going so far as to announcing that it is working with space tourism company Space Adventures to send up to four private citizens into orbit around the Earth sometime in late 2021 or early 2022.

The price for this form of tourism is still super up there, with tickets priced around $55 million.

Final Thoughts

Though it is still too early to make any guesses, it is clear that the potential to use space flight as a means of additional revenue by various companies is well on its way. From tourism, product testing to even marketing, NASA seems to intend to open up Space for widespread business/recreational use.

Though the prices are probably going to stay insurmountably high for quite some time, from my point of view, this is still major news as saying that "one day we will be traveling to space as easily as we travel with plane" less of a science fiction statement and more an accurate prediction of the future.

Though we are still a long ways to go, we are steadily moving forward.

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