Space Tourism and You

By: Priya Amin

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury: these missions achieved several goals, including the first trip to the moon, and allowed the United States to succeed in the Cold War. NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has been at the forefront of space exploration since Chuck Yeager’s X-1 flight, which successfully broke the sound barrier and led to some of the first flights in orbit. However, while NASA has undoubtedly allowed for aerospace knowledge to burgeon within the past few decades, it has also created an unintentional effect: a growing need for space tourism, or the privatized industry of space exploration.

On November 4, 2015, NASA announced a job opening for astronauts for its new generation of asteroid exploration. The qualifications were as follows (1):

1. A bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics.

2. At least 3 years of professional experience or at least 1,000 pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.

3. Ability to pass the NASA long-duration Astronaut physical.

4. Distant and near visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20, each eye. The use of glasses is acceptable.

5. The refractive surgical procedures of the eye, PRK and LASIK, are allowed.

6. Applicants must meet the anthropometric requirements for both the specific vehicle and the extravehicular activity mobility unit (space suit).

NASA estimates the decommissioning of the International Space Station (ISS) in the next 20 years. The ISS is a large orbiting spacecraft in Earth’s low-orbit atmosphere. It uniquely houses astronauts and holds a science laboratory to research the effects and possibilities of working in space (2). Due to the cost of adjusting the station for microgravity, NASA’s diminishing budget can no longer support the low orbit of the ISS. NASA’s decreasing budget has also ended the possibility for manned missions to the moon and the space shuttle missions. Due to its decreasing budget, NASA has become increasingly dependent on space tourism companies, such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft (3). Founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to enable people to live on other planets. Under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract (4), SpaceX has participated in eight missions by providing the spacecraft needed to launch into orbit. Virgin Galactic is united in creating something new and lasting: the world’s first commercial spaceline (5). Virgin Galactic is currently seeking astronauts of any age to work with tourists. Virgin Galactic has branched with NASA to make space more accessible for more purposes than before. Overall, the market in space tourism is expanding to include several new companies.

Ideas for privatized flights in space have the opportunity to grow and make human spaceflight possible for more than just a handful of chosen individuals. The consideration of funding has been broadened to the private sector to fulfill the long-term goals of spaceflight travel. Companies such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic already are attempting to bring the experience of space to the consumer and stretch the limits of human potential. The creative needs of both the private and governmental sectors may prove invaluable, because the technological findings will be used to address two different means: one for the consumer, and the other for scientific advancements. Therefore, these costly endeavors justify themselves as experiments of human potential, where both failure and success bring valuable knowledge to the forefront.

Priya Amin ’19 is a freshman in Wigglesworth Hall.

WORKS CITED

[1] “Astronaut Selection.” Astronaut Candidate Program. NASA, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

[2] Dunbar, Brian. “What Is the International Space Station?” NASA. NASA, 30 Nov. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.

[3] “SpaceX.” SpaceX. SPACE EXPLORATION TECHNOLOGIES CORP., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

[4] “Commercial Resupply Services Overview.” NASA. NASA, 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

[5] “Virgin Galactic, the World’s First Commercial Spaceline.” Virgin Galactic. Virgingalactic.com, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.

Categories: Spring 2016

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