By: Grace Helmke
In May of 2020, SpaceX launched two Americans aboard Falcon 9, the first manned rocket to journey to the International Space Station (ISS) in over nine years. The flight took place aboard a commercial vehicle, representing the beginning of a movement towards accessible space travel.
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), is working with several private companies to expand their production and create space crafts capable of carrying the average human into orbit.
SpaceX was the first to produce reusable rockets. They did this by establishing a model, which has now been running regular missions to the ISS since 2012.
The several companies manufacturing these shuttles maintain ownership of the vehicles they produce. NASA then provides their launch facilities, and sends the astronauts into space. By creating business with these companies and starting their Commercial Crew Program, NASA predicts that the economics of spaceflight will change, increasing competition between nations and driving down the cost of intergalactic travel.
Other nations around the world are also becoming increasingly invested in the idea of a commercialized space flight future. Russia currently has in orbit a reusable vessel which has made several trips from earth to space on resupply missions to the ISS. China is in the earlier stages of the production of a space station capable of housing multitudes of astronauts for an extended period of time. Several test vehicles have been launched, but all have incinerated after multiple years in space.
The fact that private companies in the United States, and around the world, are beginning their work in becoming commercial space companies means that spaceflight is no longer exclusive to government-funded projects. It is now becoming increasingly accessible.
It is also foreseeable that as a result of these reduced prices and increased accessibility, that a hospitality industry might emerge in space and on other planets. Meaning, hotels and inflatable habitats will likely be created.
Bigelow Aerospace, a company in Nevada that specializes in space technology, has actually begun to produce these alternative housing solutions. The idea of this module, named B330, is that it is completely collapsible. It will arrive at the destination shriveled and compacked, and will inflate to accommodate visitors upon arrival. This balloon like home, surprisingly enough, would last a person’s lifetime.
With the continued advancement in technology, and newfound partnership between the government and private companies, a society where space travel is routine may not be so far away.
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