By: Davan Mulligan
Commercial space flight. The notion of such an idea feels more like Sci-Fi than reality. Buying a ticket to space feels as realistic as being in a real-life Star Wars movie for the vast majority of people. But, for the unfathomably wealthy, commercial space flight is a reality. One day, it may be a reality for the rest of us.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk. In 2012, the company became the first private company to dock a spacecraft onto the International Space Station (ISS). In August 2020, SpaceX’s Dragon brought two NASA astronauts back to Earth, and SpaceX plans to carry four more astronauts as soon as April 20, 2021. SpaceX has also signed a deal with a company called Axiom to carry a group of “private astronauts” to the ISS in late 2021. Likewise, SpaceX already advertises tickets to the Earth and Moon’s orbit on their website.
Beyond NASA and the ISS, Elon Musk has much broader ambitions. He wants to bring humans to Mars, and to colonize it. He has recently stated he is “highly confident” SpaceX will land humans on Mars as early as 2026. To do this, his company is working on the “SpaceX Starship.” Their prototype of the SpaceX Starship, SN10, could fly as soon as next week. Musk has already sold a SpaceX Starship flight to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who plans on bringing himself and a group of artists to the moon.
A company called Virgin Galactic has sold more than 520 tickets for suborbital space tourism flights starting at $200,000 USD per ticket. Virgin Galactic’s goal is to be “the world’s first commercial spaceline.”
Blue Origin, started by Jeff Bezos, planned to carry passengers into space in 2020, though because of COVID-19, this seems to have been delayed. One of Blue Origin’s spacecrafts, called New Shepard, can carry six people into space. The company has announced they will soon start to sell tickets to commercial passengers.
In 2014, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program selected two private space companies to build spacecrafts to carry astronauts to the ISS. One of them was SpaceX, which as stated earlier was already successful in bringing two NASA astronauts home from the ISS. The second company is Boeing, but they have not yet got their Starliner spacecraft to the ISS and back safely. They continue to improve and test the Starliner so one day it may fulfill Boeing’s deal with NASA.
Space tourism is on our horizon, and it is not nearly as out of reach as it seems. Many private space companies are striving to make commercial space flight more affordable and accessible for all people. Space tourism is no longer a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Maybe one day you can book your ticket to space!