As private space companies successfully test their thoughtfully constructed spacecrafts, we are learning that commercial flights to space could be coming soon.
Space Tourism: Commercial Flights to Space Are Coming Soon
With the rise of commercial flights to space, it is safe to say the age of space tourism has finally arrived. This past December, Virgin Galactic successfully sent SpaceShipTwo, their suborbital spaceplane, on a test flight to the edge of the atmosphere. This is a goal the company had aimed to complete since their 2004 founding. This flight flew above 80 kilometers, making the two pilots on board Virgin Galactic’s first astronauts.
Virgin Galactic founder, Richard Branson, said in a statement “Today, as I stood among a truly remarkable group of people with our eyes on the stars, we saw our biggest dream and our toughest challenge to date fulfilled.”
The company has spent over a decade constructing and testing ships for commercial space travel. Over the years, numerous setbacks kept Virgin Galactic from their inaugural trip. The most notable hindrance happened in 2014, when VSS Enterprise, their first spaceplane, crashed into the Mojave Desert. Unfortunately, this catastrophe was fatal—taking the co-pilot’s life and critically injuring the pilot. After this event, Branson told CNN that he thought about ending the project, but continued to push forward with customer support.
Thankfully, this February, a fifth successful test run took its first passenger into space on the spacecraft VSS Unity. The passenger, Beth Moses, is the company’s chief astronaut instructor, and her experience in space will help Virgin Galactic prepare for future paying customers.
“It was just magic and almost indescribable,” Beth Moses told The Verge. “I felt very fortunate to fly where I did and the day I did. I felt like the Earth was so beautiful, but even more so than you can describe or can be imagined.” Moses also believes that “…the more people that see [space], the better off we will all be.”
The company has planned more test flights and intends to begin operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico. They are currently on track to carry customers into space at the end of 2019. Virgin Galactic’s founder, Richard Branson, also hopes to travel to space this July.
There are almost 700 customers who have paid deposits or full price on suborbital flights—one 90-minute flight costs $250,000. Passengers on these quick flights will not need extensive training before boarding the spacecraft.
There are also other private companies that are planning civilian space travel in the near future, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The total flight duration and ticket prices are comparable to Virgin Galactic’s offerings.
Since these private companies are heavily investing in the future of space travel, they have enlisted some assistance. In fact, Boeing and SpaceX have already planned test flights with NASA astronauts. In fact, NASA has collaborated with the private sector for years, assigning their astronauts on test flights.
At this point in time, commercial flights to space look promising. It seems that soon, we will see people boarding spacecraft and soaring above the Earth’s atmosphere.
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