Become A Space Tourist Have $250,000

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’s Space Launch Company, has announced that it will sell its first flights to microgravity to highest bidder. Blue Origin, along with its biggest competitors in space tourism, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic claim that they are advancing humanity by democratizing space. These joyrides don’t open up space access for everyone

The Changing Space Landscape

Space tourism is an exciting prospect. It promises a quicker path to space than that taken by astronauts who must complete rigorous training, higher education and compete for selection. Because few countries have human spaceflight programs, astronauts must have the right nationality.

The opening of commercial spaceflight should, in theory, make space more democratic and accessible. This is not true in all cases. What was once the exclusive domain of the wealthiest countries is now dominate by commercial entities.

These companies can take greater risks than government programs, because they don’t have to justify spending or failings to the public. Blue Origin and SpaceX both have witnessed many explosions during past tests. Yet, fans are more excited than dismay.

This has led to rapid advancement of space technologies. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which has just completed its tenth successful launch, is a reusable rocket that has lowered the cost of launch tenfold. Reusable technology not only reduces costs but also solves the problem of sustainability.

Considering Sustainability Space

Since 1957 when the Soviets launched the first human-made object (Sputnik I), there have been thousands upon thousands of launches. Except for Falcon 9, every launch vehicle was use once and dispose off immediately, much like an aeroplane being thrown away after one flight.

With 114 launches in 2020, the number of launches is increasing every year. The uncontrolled reentry by debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket was a major news story because of its size and potential for damage. This is only one example of the issues of space debris management and traffic management.

Safety is an important issue in human spaceflight. There are currently approximately 3,400 satellites and 128 million pieces debris in orbit. Each day there are hundreds of possible collisions. Operators can avoid them by costly and complicated manuevers, or wait for the risk to diminish enough to be avoid.

Countries will have to impose stricter requirements on satellites that are de-orbit at the end of their life, in order to ensure they do not burn up upon re entry, if we increase human spaceflight. It is acceptable to either de-orbit a satellite after 25 years or to place a satellite in an unoccupied orbit. This only slows down the problem for the future.

Nations will also have to follow the 2019 United Nations Guidelines on the Long-term Sustainability Activities in Outer Space. Another important aspect of launch operations is their environmental impact. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 burns more fuel than an average car over 200 years for one launch.

There are many impacts on the ground, including waterways and terrain. These should be considered when we build future Australian launch sites. Launch permits require that environmental impact statements be completed, but they should also include long-term effects as well as carbon footprints.

How To Keep Billionaires Under Control

It will be vital for independent spaceflight companies in the future to be strictly regulate. Virgin Galactic has advocated for a shirtsleeve environment where customers can enjoy the luxury of spaceflight without being restrict by uncomfortable spacesuits. Spaceflight is still dangerous, as evidenced by the 2014 death of one its test pilots. Comfort requires more caution and greater safety at high altitudes.

While space tourism regulators like the US Federal Aviation Administration have stringent safety standards, spacesuits that are pressurize are not. But they should. Space tourism operators may require passengers to sign waivers of liability in the event of an accident.

While it is admirable that Blue Origin and SpaceX are making technological leaps in the right direction, their business plans do not reflect diversity, inclusion, or global accessibility. All of the first space tourists were entrepreneurs.

Dennis Tito purchased a seat aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in 2001 to visit the International Space Station (ISS). Eight more space tourists have paid between US$20 million-US$30 million to fly through Russia since then.

The 2022 flight of the Axiom crew to SpaceX Dragon to the ISS is plan for 2022. The privilege will paid for by three white, wealthy male passengers who all wealthy and well-off. Blue Origin’s auction will run for five weeks. The highest bidder will win a seat in microgravity for a few seconds.

Virgin Galactic’s 90-minute joyrides are also plan to fly as soon as 2022. They have sold out for US$250,000 already. Future tickets will likely be more expensive.

It’s Only A Matter Of Space Time

Conventional recreational air travel originally meant for the wealthy. Cross-continental flights to the United States were half the cost of new cars. However, technological advancements and increased commercial competition led to nearly five million people flying every day by 2019, pre-COVID.

It’s possible that space tourism will soon be accessible. This would allow you to fly from Sydney to London in just a few hours. Spaceflight is more risky and expensive than air flight. Even with reusable rockets, it’s still a viable option. These costs will continue to rise for a while before spaceflight can be democratize.

This compelling narrative is one that commercial spaceflight companies are keen to adopt. However, there will always be some people who won’t have the opportunity to enjoy this future. As science fiction stories often predict, spaceflight and habitation in space will only be possible for the wealthy.

Space-based technologies have many benefits. These include tracking climate change and enabling global communications. We also know that we can learn from experiments conducted on the ISS. Space tourism is more difficult because the payback for the average person may be less.