What could have been a better way of celebrating the 52nd year of the first man on the moon than a series of private companies heralding the new era in Spaciology with embarking on the start of space tourism?
Raising the question, is human’s venture to space started with the eagerness to conquer before anyone else has become an overpriced joyride for the billionaire? How will this affect the economy and investments in space venture-providing companies? And what about the risk of space junk?
The embarking journey of private companies offering space tourism opportunities for a quarter-million will, without a shadow of a doubt, boost the space industry’s economy. But this more viable space economy that the government once controlled, will be in the hands of private players. But as these establishments are gearing up multiple launches, the problem that persists to date is that even the most high-tech rockets are incapable of lifting weight more than 4% of their launch weight. This staggering ratio is constant in space flight’s last 60 years history.
Furthermore, one space ride of a few minutes in Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic costs every customer at least $250,000. The quarter-million price tag already has got roughly 600 passengers to book their extravagant jaunt to space. The two space flights by Branson and Bezos marked important moments for their space tourism businesses, but the space industry is still far from becoming accessible to the rest of the public. Several obstacles must be overcome to bring the price low, where people can buy tickets to space like expensive flight tickets.
As the private companies rate to space is heating up, the unforeseeable danger is lurking over our head, the space junk. To date, the earth’s inner orbit has approximately 6000 satellites revolving every day, half of which are dead. With the 3000 that are working, about half are owned by private companies.
Anything revolving in the earth’s inner orbit is in a continuous free-fall, where the earth’s gravity and the satellites’ velocity balance out to keep the object in the perpetual state of free-fall. This means, once an object went up in orbit, it stays there for a long run, which after some time becomes space junk.
In 2009, two communication satellites collided with each other at 11,700km/h, shattering into thousands of debris. With space tourism, more and more space shuttle and satellites will be launched and established in the earth’s orbit, increasing the traffic and increasing the risk of more such collisions.
Though the probability of such a collision is minimal, the chance will eventually rise in the crowded space. To prevent such cases, SpaceX launches all of its satellites into a single orbit, called Starlink, thus minimizing the possibility of such disastrous encounters. But trusting private companies to take incremental steps in public welfare is a shot in the dark. The international organizations will need to create collision avoidance maneuvers.
Unavoidable Health Risks in Space Tourism
Flying into space can be very risky, even for the most well-trained astronauts. In the wake of the life-threatening risks, the Commerical Space Launch Amendments Act, 2004 requires a prior ‘Informed Consent‘ for getting aboard on any space vehicle before selling the tickets.
The other challenging standing amidst the way is medical emergencies. The medical emergency kit of the International Space Station consists of basics elements like a simple first-aid kit, some medical supplies, a portable ultrasound, and a defibrillator, which might not be of much use in case of medical emergencies. The trained astronauts are thoroughly checked, and the crew always have telehealth advising. But despite that, in the case of a medical emergency, nothing much can be done until they reach the planetside doctors.
Given that the future space tour would not last for more than a few minutes, it is highly unlikely for private companies to have doctors on every trip. Some unfortunate turn of events could risk the life of the passengers. Therefore, private companies still have a lot of roads ahead to make the journey safer.
Future of the Space Tourism
The competition for conquering space has just begun. However, many huge companies are still angering to step into the space tourism industry. At this stage, it would be too soon to say which one will make space tourism viable to the public, but in this phase and for a few foreseeable years, it will be controlled by billionaire cash.
Many pressing issues on this planet, such as human poverty, might make cynics despair of this waste of money. Nevertheless, space travel has the power to capture imaginations and serve as a symbol of human progress. With continued refinement and cost reduction, space flight might indeed become accessible to all, changing how we see our precious planet and enabling new scientific advancements that benefit all of humanity. It is hard not to wonder.