The New Space Race’s Got Talent
Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
by Jason Taetsch
Ever dream of visiting space and staring back at our home planet while floating weightlessly in zero-gravity? Thanks to a number of companies working to bring space flight to the masses, your dream could very well become a reality.
In the 20th century, the world was mesmerized by the race to the Moon. But in the 21st century, a different type of space race is underway, and although it has less fanfare than the space race of the 1950s and ’60s, it’s likely to have as big an impact on how people view our planet and space.
Virgin Galactic, the brainchild of entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, is the highest profile effort to shuttle civilians into space. With a custom spaceport under construction in New Mexico and a sleek craft that looks more like a fighter jet than a Space Shuttle, Virgin Galactic is the company most people have heard about.
But there are other major players in the civilian space race. Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, recently disclosed their design for a biconic VTL module, short for Vertical Take Off/Vertical Landing, that could ultimately bring up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station— or paying customers to the sub-orbital reaches of space.
Space Adventures, the firm responsible for organizing the first civilian space flight, has teamed up with Armadillo Aerospace to offer suborbital flight packages. Like Blue Origin, Armadillo Aerospace is focusing on a reusable VTL to begin ferrying tourists on sub-orbital flights
While the expected costs of suborbital flights are still beyond the means of the average person (Ashton Kutcher reportedly paid $200,000 for a spot on a Virgin Galactic flight), they are nowhere near the projected price of booking a flight on an orbital mission. According to an email from Space Adventures, a ticket on an orbital flight could run approximately $50 million dollars and require intense training and preparation. Suborbital flights, on the other hand, are predicted to last just over two hours.
Though the flight time is significantly shorter, suborbital flights are high enough to provide the classic view of the Earth surrounded by the blackness of space as well as five-to-ten minutes of weightlessness. And with so many companies competing, ticket prices might one day just fall low enough to make the dream of visiting space a reality for millions of people.
In other words, move over, Ashton. The rest of us will be there soon.
Jason Taetsch is a freelance content writer with experience in tech writing, blogs, travel writing, pop culture and a range of promotional materials. Jason blogs via Contently.com.