Words by AFP Relax News
Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, the respective bosses of Amazon, Tesla and Virgin, all cherish the dream of being part of the space tourism boom by putting paying passengers in sub-orbital flights.
Blue Origin, a company headed by Jeff Bezos, uploaded a video this week of its New Shepard space vehicle taking off then landing vertically, apparently without incurring any damage. The video has a computer-generated sequence which shows a detachable capsule for six people which can send them into space and then return to earth in a landing slowed down by parachutes.
The idea is to be able to reuse the launcher for many flights, which would obviously considerably reduce costs. This successful flight and landing demonstration by the New Shepard space vehicle, which can reach altitudes of around 100km at a speed of Mach 3.7 (almost 4,000km/h) led Jeff Bezos to say that a space trip with passengers could take place within two years. Despite this optimism, we should not forget that an accident in 2011 delayed this highly ambitious program.
Another entrepreneur has worked for many years on introducing space flights for tourists. Richard Branson's program, which has received a lot of media attention, suffered a serious setback in 2014 when the SpaceShipTwo prototype crashed during a test flight and its pilot was killed.
A big name in the high-tech industry has also been involved in the space business for several years. Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, heads SpaceX, a company which works closely with NASA providing it with launchers for freight for the International Space Station.
While SpaceX does not have any plans as yet to move into space tourism, the company is also working on a reusable launcher. In 2015, its Falcon 9, which is able to go into orbit and to reach Mach 10 (over 10,000km/h), experienced an in-flight explosion for the first time. This event has not undermined the program, though. SpaceX also has plans, in partnership with Google, to put a large number of satellites into orbit enabling the whole world to be connected to the internet.
Other projects which may or may not be very serious, most of which are in the US, suggest that the first space flights for wealthy tourists will take place in the near future.
In the 2000s, seven people, who had to prove they were in excellent health, were able to take part in space flights organized by the Russian Federal Space Agency, at a cost of several million dollars.
Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015.
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