Space travel for all of us is a step closer today, after a conference of space industry engineers, economists, future astronauts and top Obama Administration officials met at Stanford University for a “Space Entrepreneurship” conference. Buying into the idea of privatized spaceflight rather than bulky, slow NASA programs, space industry leaders seem to have a clear vision of the future.
“We are placing our bets on American industry,” said Lori Garver, deputy administrator for NASA in a Mercury News report. “Cargo flights under way are developing the capability of launching people to space from the U.S. on privately owned and operated rockets over the next three years.”
Through a variety of private enterprises, the near future of space travel will first call on “space taxis” that NASA would buy space on for astronauts while they focus more on the unmanned exploration of deep outer space.
Let’s meet the players:
Boeing has partnered with a company called Space Adventures in a bid to provide transportation services to destinations in low Earth orbit, providing transportation to the International Space Station and future platforms in space at a cost far less than other options.
Bigelow Aerospace is working on the solar system’s first private space station, a 36-person modular station for nations of the world that do not have the resources to build their own space station. A 30-day trip is estimated to cost about $25 million per person.
Virgin Galactic has 500 people signed up at $200,000 a seat to go 50,000 feet up on a 1.5-hour flight that launches them into outer space at four times the speed of sound for a few minutes before returning to Earth.
XCOR Aerospace has a $95,000 trip that goes even higher, up to 100,000 feet. On this one, the engines turn off after reaching Mac 3.5, passengers coast for a few minutes then glide back down to earth.
It’s all in line with a new direction for the space program first outlined by president Obama in 2011 that canceled NASA’s current program at the time that would have sent astronauts back to the moon.
[Photo credit- Flickr user n0nick]