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WIRED guide to commercial human space flight

In the morning December 13, 2018, Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo two wheels down the beam runway in Mojave, California, ready for take-off. An ordinary passenger plane, which is a dual-hull catamaran, handed over by owner Richard Branson, who stops at the aviator jacket on the sidewalk. But WhiteKnightTwo was not just any plane: Hooked between the two bodies was a space an airplane called SpaceShipTwo is the first private ship to regularly carry tourists from this planet.

WhiteKnightTwo was angry and took off, preparing to climb up to 50,000 feet. SpaceShipTwo would be released from this jet of height; its two pilots ignite the engines and enlarge the ship in space.

“3… 2… 1…” arrived on the radio.

SpaceShipTwo fell like a sleek stone, free.

"Fire, fire," said the controller.

For the team, the flame was shot from the ship's engines. Smoked above the mountain folds as a spacecraft flew up and up and up. Soon, both contrast and fire stopped: SpaceShipTwo just floated. The arc of the Earth is curved across the window, facing the blackness of the rest of the universe. Cable panel decoration made as a snowflake trolley in the microgravity of the cab.

"Welcome to space," said the base. And with that, Virgin Galactic had flown their first astronauts, who were not heroes of government-backed, but private, private individuals.

For most of the space-light history, people have left such governments to governments. From mid-Mercury, Gemini and Apollo days to the 30-year shuttle program NASA dominates US space efforts. But today, companies run by powerful billionaires – who have used their big bucks in other industries and are now using to fulfill star dreams – are using a burner or at least part of the fire.

In its turn, Virgin Galactic itself, as a tourist outfit and the hopes of this kind of space, often talk about a philosophical uplift – a change of perspective that happens when people look at the Earth as a real planet in real space. Other companies want to help establish a permanent residence on the moon and / or on Mars, and they sometimes talk about destiny and salvation. There are many gestures against the human spirit and the irreversible study of our species.

But, of course, let's not forget that money has to be done theoretically; and the federal government itself is no longer astronauts. After closing the space shuttle program in 2011, the US was no longer able to send people to space and since then has relied on Russia. But it will soon change: today two private companies – Boeing and SpaceX – have contracts to fly people to the International Space Station.

But even before the NASA program to send people to space began to decline, business magicians recognized what they could do if they had their own private missiles. They were able to make ferry supplies to a space station budget-conscious government. They could start the satellites. They could take tourists to suborbital new places. They could promote industrial infrastructure in deep space. They could pass the Moon and Mars. People can become space-time exciting species, which they have always meant, and often travel – or even live long – away from the Earth. It's exciting: after all, for many decades, science fiction, a great forerunner and creator of the future, has told us that space is the next (last) border, and we (we can) do not just go there but live there.

Private space companies are taking small steps in this long-term, large-scale presence in space, and in 2019 there are more promises than most years. But deadlines remain sluggish: like cold fusion, private space space trips are constantly around the corner. It is possible that part of the delay is related to private people's space travel – and especially extended Private Space Travel – This is an almost untested business model, and most of these companies spend a lot of money on businesses that have little to do with people. Often, operations that generate revenue here and now are associated with slippery satellites and supplies without sending people far. But as the most promising plans are supported by billionaires with great agendas – and to some extent directed at other rich people, science fiction can nevertheless become a space fact.

The history of private space space

Today, the space-reactor capitalists call their industry the new space, although in the past days thinkers of "" spoke. It could be said that it all started in 1982 when Space Services launched the first privately funded rocket – a modified Minuteman rocket that it baptized in Iconon (after the wagon received it?). The flight was just a demonstration using 40 pounds of water. But two years later, the US adopted the 1984 Commercial Space Launcher Act to find out more about private activities.

Human passengers climbed aboard in 2001, when financier Dennis Tito acquired a seat in the Russian Russian Soyuz missile and earned $ 20 million, almost eight days' leave at a space station. Space adventures that organized this expensive flight continued to send six more asteroids to orbit through the Russian Space Agency.

In the same year, a guy named Elons Musks, who was rich in selling PayPal, announced a plan called Mars Oasis. With his many funds he wanted to reinforce public support for people's settlements on the Red Planet, so that public pressure would encourage Congress to mandate the mission to Mars. With the sister he founded under the Life to Mars Foundation, Muskis proposed the following privately-funded opening shot: a $ 20 million land plot carrying a greenhouse that could be filled with Martian soil and could start in 2005.

$ 6.8 billion

The potential value of NASA's SpaceX and Boeing contract to take astronauts to and from space stations.

Note that this has never happened – partly because of the cost launch such a garden of the future was so high. The US rocket would cost him $ 65 million (about $ 92 million in 2018) to restore Russia's ICBM to about $ 10 million. A year later, Musks decided to lower the rocket barrier. Moving from a "fund" to a "corporation", he started SpaceX, a missile company with a clear Mars residence goal.

At first, musk was not the only one who wanted to send people to space. Pilot (and then astronaut) Mike Melvill flew to SpaceShipOne, which resembled a ball that grew up on frogs' feet to space in 2004. After this trial flight and two further trips, SpaceShipOne won a $ 10 million X-award. These flights combined two new space dreams: privately developed craft and private astronaut pilots. After winning, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites developed SpaceShipTwo, a High-fly technology. In 2009, Virgin opened this passenger ship, which intended to send tourists to space… for the cost of the average home. (After all, why is it home forever when you can go to a place for five minutes?)

$ 3.5 billion

Value of NASA First Contracts with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences (now Northrop Grumman) for deliveries to ISS 2009-2016

Virgin Galactic has always focused close to home and on short but frequent flights that remain suborbital. Musk, however, is stuck in his original Mary mission. After launching the first rocket in orbit in 2008, SpaceX won the NASA contract for the delivery of buses from the space station and continues to carry the cargo to the agency. But getting started really got its feet in 2012 and 2013 when it launched a rocket rocket called a wall. Although it is not in the high air, it descended on the launch pad, from where it could rise again (for example, a mushroom grass). This recycling has paved the way for today's reusable Falcon 9 rockets that have gone up and down and helped transform the ethics of rocket science from being unacceptable for recycling.

Virgin Galactic

From Virgin Records to Virgin Atlantic to the cellular operator Virgin Mobile, Richard Branson has created money around the block.

WhiteKnightTwo + SpaceShipTwo

The random Virgin Galactic plane has a space plane that can carry up to six passengers and two pilots just above the space limit to experience a few minutes of weightless and incredible views. Richard Branson hopes he will move forward this year and tourists will soon follow.

The goal of Musk, because Mars Oasis's failure, has always been to reduce start-up costs. Today, SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable rockets cost $ 50-60 million – still much but less than $ 100 million plus some of its competitors. Getting into space, thinking happens, should not be the biggest obstacle created by possible space life. If SpaceX can do this, the company can theoretically ship many deliveries and people shipments to Mars for the MAKE LIFE MULTIPLANETARY musk label.

But the path to multipathetics was not always a steady SpaceX. Its reusable rockets have fallen into the ocean, dragged into the sea, dropped into barges, crawled on the ships, dropped into the air, cut out, exploded the middle beam and exploded on the launch pad.

The true New Space course has never been smooth, and SpaceX is far from the only company that has experienced an accident. For example, in 2014, Virgin Galactic experienced a tragedy when pilot Pete Siebold and copilots Michael Alsbury were in SpaceShipTwo under WhiteKnight.

Blue origin

Jeff Bezos, of the fame and happiness of Amazon, is still very much married to space activities.

New Sheepard

Blue Origin's reusable rocket takes 11 minutes of suborbital flight to the crew and cargo, just as easy as landing on the body's painted feathers. This year's goal is to send the first crew.

New Glenn

Blue Origin says he wants this heavy lift, a recyclable rocket to "make way to space". This launcher will probably debut in 2021.

SpaceShipTwo did not fly as planned. SpaceShipTwo is a 'feather mechanism' that, when unlocked and enabled, slows the ship down so that it can safely land. But Alsbury locked it up early and pulled the ship while its rockets were still on fire. Aerodynamic forces pulled SpaceShipTwo apart by killing Alsbia. Siebold hungry, alive, on the ground. Some customers canceled. Most still wanted to go to space, although the industry has a higher risk and lower regulation than commercial high altitude flights.

Meanwhile, another important corporation – the Blue Origin – peacefully developed its human mission plans. This celestial event, funded by Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos, began in 2000 before Musks began in SpaceX, but remained secret for years. Subsequently, during the April 2015 test launch, a potentially re-usable New Shepard missile was lifted. It successfully placed the capsule but failed to unload. However, in November, New Shepard did what it was supposed to be: touched back, pushing SpaceX to this discovery and land goal.

Blue origin, like Virgin Galactic, wants to use its small rocket to send suborbital space tourists. And it wants to relieve a permanent colony of the moon with larger dick-lookalike missiles. Bezos has suggested that heavy industry should take place on this planet, in places where suction is already available, but that have the resources to get. The first moon race he says could be in 2023, promoting the Earth, which is zoned primarily for residential and light industry.

SpaceX also has 2023 plans. The company announced last September that in 2023 it will send a Japanese tycoon Yusaka Maezawa and an artist's companion passport around the moon. NASA has also entered into a contract with the company and with Boeing to carry out astronauts from and to ISS as part of a commercial crew program that is starting to test people this year.

However, with regard to all the most visible companies, Virgin Galactic is still the only private company that has actually sent a private individual to a private vehicle.

The future of a private human space space

The way these companies see the future, they (humbly, of course) will be those who will normalize space travel, regardless of whether this trip will take you across the Karman line or other celestial body. Space aircraft ferry passengers and experiments with suborbital spots, less time touching back than needed to watch Rights. The rockets will be launched and unloaded again and again by sending satellites and moving physical and biological cargoes to the industrial base on the moon or the Martian home base, where the capes will ensure the survival of the species, even if there are apocalypse (nuclear, climatic) on the terras. company. Homo sapiens will have shown his destiny, showing that he is a brave pioneer he always knew. And the idea of ​​not having to be in one cosmic space forever is exciting!

But all these companies are companies, not philanthropic visions. Is it really a credible financial perspective to make life unintentionally and seriously inter-planar? And, more importantly, is it desirable?

Let's start with the low-key space tourism that Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin want to offer. Some economists believe that this is quite possible: if we know about one world, a part of the population will always have too much money and it will be able to spend it on cool things that are not available. However, if such flights become normal, their price could fall, and space tourism could follow the trajectory of the commercial aviation industry, which was formerly rich and now lives by Spirit Airlines. Some also speculate that longer, orbital flights – and sleep routes in light six-star hotels (an additional star is part of space) – could follow.

After the availability of the space hotel market, more infrastructure could be followed. And if you have prepared something about space can be easier and cheaper inside Space, space materials, not a billion to launch all the necessary materials. Maybe moon miners and producers could create a protest colony that could lead some people to live there.

Is not it. Who knows? I can't see the future and you can't, and these billionaires too.

But with long journeys or habitual residence, it becomes more difficult to make money, or it is possible to create a smart city square from the dust of the moon. The most difficult part of human space exploration will always be man.

We are the weak creatures that have evolved it planets. Mutations and adaptations were reversed to make us uniquely fit for living here – and unique not suitable for living in space or Valles Mariner. It is too cold or too hot; no air where to breathe; you can't eat potatoes grown in your shit, the rest of the unnatural life. Your personal microbes can affect everything from digestion to immunity to the mood, in the way scientists do not yet understand, and although they do not understand how space affects this microbioma, it may not be the same if you live outside the earth. Crater, as it would be in your apartment.

In addition, the lowest degree of severity, your muscles become slow. Liquids inside you are strangely gathering. Drugs do not always work as intended. Your brain shape changes. Your mind goes in the fog. The flap of the eyeball of your eye. And then there is the radiation that can worsen the tissues, cause cardiovascular disease, confuse the nervous system, give you cancer or just cause a direct radiation illness until you die. If your body stops, you can still lose your crew members, planetsick, and you definitely Tackle your skull on the road and at the time you follow.

Perhaps there is a technological future in which we can all mitigate these consequences. After all, many things that were once inconceivable – from vaccines to quantum mechanics – are now quite well understood. But billionaires mostly don't work with people's problems: When they talk about space cities, they leave details and their money goes into physics, not biology.

They also don't talk so much about the cost or ways to compensate. But Blue Origin and SpaceX both hope to work with NASA (i.e., using federal money) to carry out their further Earth activity, making this particular private space light more society– private partnership. They have already won many millions of contracts with NASA and the Defense Department for closer projects such as launching national security satellites and building more infrastructure to do so more often. At the same time, Virgin is a division called Virgin Orbit that will send small satellites, and SpaceX aims to create its own giant small bracket for global Internet coverage. And at least in the near future, their income will most likely continue to grow from satellites than from non-Community infrastructure. In this respect, even if they are a new space, they are just ordinary government contractors.


Elons Musks first took PayPal.

Falcon 9 + Dragon

SpaceX will also transfer astronauts and accessories to NASA's International Space Station, and after its journey, Falcon unloads itself, but the Dragon capsule will go. Bonus: The company is proud that passengers can set their internal temperature from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Its first crew test can take place in mid-2019.

Super Heavy + Starship

Previously called BFR (Big Falcon Rocket or Big Fucking Rocket, depending on who you are talking to), this SpaceX ship and its human capsule have thought that the Red Planet will host 100 people and 150 tons of cargo. Musk opened a smaller, suborbital prototype in January, and its glossy silver and vintage sci-fi looks look like a '50-year-old dreamer dreamed that it became a rocket. Its first test should be done this year.

So, if the money is smoother nearby, why look beyond the Earth's orbit? Why not go for profitable business by sending satellites or providing communications? Yes, yes, human spirit. Good, sure, survival. Both noble, energetic goals. But supporters may be interested in creating international space-type space states that are full of people who can afford to travel (or perhaps employees who will work in exchange for a ticket). Maybe the people of the sky will unite in the utopian society, freely from our planet. People can start from scratch somewhere else by running something new and better in a foreign table of dew soil. Perhaps, as is happening on Earth, history is repeating, and human luggage will be the heaviest cargo on colonial ships. After all, wherever you go, you are.

Maybe we would be better than a species if we stayed at home and looked at our problems right in the eye. This is the conclusion that Gary Westfahl, the author of science fiction, is taking part in the essay titled "The Case Against Space". Westfahl does not think that innovation happens when you turn on your surroundings and run out of your difficulties, but rather when you bypass and behave.

United Launch Alliance and Boeing

There is no billionaire here. Only a military industrial complex unites itself with itself. Over the last 15 years, this rocket has been 100% successful.

Atlas V + Starliner

The Atlas V rocket selected by United Launch Alliance of Lockheed Martin and Boeing will merge with the Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsule to send astronauts and scientific experiments to the ISS. Starliner can fly 10 times, while each trip receives a six-month refractory period – for renewal and testing. Its first crew test can take place in mid-2019.

In addition, most Americans do not believe that human space travel is largely a nationwide trip, at least not with their money. According to a 2018 survey, more than 60 percent of people say that NASA's top priorities are to monitor the climate and look at the ground smashing asteroids. Only 18 and 13 percent think the same goes for a human trip to Mars or to the Moon. In other words, People are more interested it planet, and keeping life on it, than making any other world alive.

But maybe it doesn't matter: history is full of billionaires doing what they want, and it is full of public deformation and a turning point determined by their direction. In addition, even if a percentage of the US population subscribed to a long-term space mission, their spacecraft would still spend most of its offshore location to travel in the solar system. And even if it were not an oasis or utopia, it would still be a huge leap.

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Last updated on January 30, 2019

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