Boeing and SpaceX are in a frenzied race to be the first company to bring tourists to space. After launching the first commercial shuttle to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, the companies plan to use the spacecrafts to allow travel for private citizens.
Tourists In Space
For the past few years, space travel as an American astronaut or private citizen was possible but extremely expensive to the point where it’s not exactly economically feasible. A Russian Soyuz rocket is being used to bring astronauts to space, but it costs around $80 million to visit the International Space Station and the accomodations for the ride aren’t exactly luxurious.
Although Boeing and SpaceX have plans to bring tourists to space, the initial runs will be ferrying professional astronauts, which marks the advent of the first-ever commercial taxi service to Earth orbit – scheduled to launch in 2019. Both of these companies are in a race to be the first company to do so, and if the mission is a success, the ability to bring tourists to space will no doubt follow soon after.
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Although the effort to bring tourists to space is no doubt a priority for the two private companies, Elon Musk is more interested in the benefits that these types of commercial shuttles would have for astronauts. Being able to transport NASA personnel reliably and for a more affordable price brings the company one step closer to their ultimate goal of putting a human on Mars. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has similar goals, hoping that his company will be the first to accomplish the same goal rather than SpaceX. The two companies are in their own version of the space race, but the possibility to bring tourists to space seems to be getting more likely.
SpaceX has announced that they have plans to bring tourists to space in its Dragon shuttle once they’ve established their shuttle for the NASA crew. Boeing has their own take on the goal, with plans to market seats on their own craft via the firm Space Adventures – a business that has previously helped bring tourists to space via Russian spacecraft.
Good News For NASA
Either of these launches would be great news for NASA, as it would end the organization’s reliance on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. The current deal between the two nations is running out in 2019, and Bloomberg reports that President Trump wants to send American astronauts back to the moon.
In an interview with Bloomberg, John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University stated that “You can’t be a space-faring country if you can’t send your machines and people into space. The Trump administration is emphasizing the idea of leadership. A country unable to send people into space on its own is not a leader.”
In an effort to arrive at a way to transport NASA scientists to space, the organization awarded SpaceX and Boeing combined contracts up to $6.8 billion to fly American astronauts to the International Space Station. The effort to bring tourists to space will no doubt follow, as the two competitors can use the infrastructure developed with funds from NASA in order to build their own private business of space tourism.
There’s no doubt that work to bring tourists to space will no doubt be exorbitantly expensive despite the advancements of Boeing and SpaceX, so expeditions will probably still be limited to the extremely wealthy – at least at first. This is the first step towards making space travel more accessible, however, and while the average joe may never leave the planet’s surface, we’re setting ourselves up for an exciting future in outer space. It remains to be seen whether SpaceX or Boeing will be the first company to bring tourists to space, but this is a textbook example of competition driving innovation. Regardless of which company comes out on top, NASA and the general public will still come out on top.