At the turn of the 20th century, Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky predicted that humans would reach space by 2017. Considered by many to be the father of astronautics, astronomers owe him a great deal. But his prediction was miles away. Yuri Gagarin flew into space in 1961, and since then many countries have sent people into space, including Hazza Al Mansouri from the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
On Sunday, a whole new phase of extraterrestrial travel began when British billionaire Richard Branson soared nearly 86 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, 6 kilometers above the altitude that NASA considers space. outer space. Mr. Branson is not a trained astronaut. He is a businessman who, since 2004, has been fighting against other companies to create a company that sells his customers the possibility of flying beyond our planet.
The safe commercialization of space travel paves the way for many other milestones beyond the atmosphere. There are already plans, for example, to create an orbital hotel. The company’s backers predict it will be operational by 2027.
But the greatest revolution inaugurated by Mr. Branson is more fundamental. Very soon, normal people, although only the rich for now, will be able to go to space. The training of a NASA astronaut can last up to two years and does not begin until after an exceptionally competitive selection process, which in 2020 included 12,000 possible candidates. Even Laika, the Soviet space dog who completed his mission in 1957, underwent selection and training. To date, just over 550 astronauts – of which only 10% are women – have had this immense privilege.
If the success of programs like Mr. Branson’s continues, this will all change very quickly. Virgin Galactic – Mr Branson’s company – already has more than 600 people on its waiting list, which, if allowed, would double the current number of space travelers in history. Although impressive, the figure will remain limited for some time due to the considerable costs involved. Tickets for a Virgin Galactic flight are priced at $ 250,000. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos auctioned off a seat on his spacecraft, due to launch on July 20, for $ 28 million last month.
Although it takes time for prices to drop, many forms of transportation originally started out as affordable only to the elites. Branson has said he wants to “open up space for everyone,” and beyond tourism, reusable craft built by a number of companies, particularly at Elon Musk’s SpaceX, will bring business operations to- beyond the earth’s atmosphere in a more cheaper era environment.
What money cannot buy for those soon to be propelled into the afterlife is the legendary fame of pioneer astronauts, such as Neil Armstrong, Yuri Gagarin, and Hazza Al Mansouri, who all embarked on new frontiers. The household names of space travel today are not just those who fly the craft, but the entrepreneurs who make these accessible journeys possible. And on Sunday, Mr. Branson became the winner of this new privatized space race.
Updated: July 13, 2021 3:00 a.m.