What comes to mind when you first think of Space Travel? “Punch it, Chewie”? Or maybe, “Engage warp drive, Mr Sulu”? How about “Helm, Warp One Engage!”? How many of us have dreamed about being on board of the USS Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon? Sci-fi films and literature have undoubtedly shaped us and have made us dream of the impossible, they have inspired different generations and continue to influence the real world. Not to mention the marketing industry, Star Wars and Star Trek have certainly influenced that.
Well, we are very far away from travelling faster than the speed of light so things like warp drive, jump drive, hyperdrive, or travelling through wormholes are out of our reach. However, this is not to say we are not working on space travel. Humanity has dreamed about going into space from the days of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Captain Kirk, from when we read the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy and watched NASA send people to the Moon. Let me tell you, things are happening.
NASA is already working closely with astronauts on the International Space Station to test the communication systems needed for human missions to Mars and deep space. The plan is to establish a long-term presence in the vicinity of the Moon, develop a lunar orbital platform-gateway, which will be followed by a mission to Mars that will focus on oxygen production and develop standards for a long-term duration.
Besides NASA, undoubtedly, the next name that comes to mind is Elon Musk or SpaceX. Elon Musk is one of the biggest pioneers in today’s space travel race. From Tesla and SpaceX, to Solar City and The Boring Company, Elon Musk is reshaping the world we live in. Found in 2002, the goal of SpaceX is to reduce transportation costs and enable the colonisation of Mars. Since then, the company has created two types of vehicles, Dragon and Falcon space rockets used to deliver payloads into Earth’s Orbit. In 2008, SpaceX’s became the first private spacecraft to reach the ISS, when NASA partnered with them. In fact, SpaceX is the first private company to ever launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft and the first private company to land a rocket on a platform in the ocean, to name a few of the company’s landmark achievements.
The way that SpaceX recovers its rockets in the ocean looks like something taken from the sci-fi films in 1959.
Elon Musk has built autonomous spacecraft drone ships. The ASDS has a large landing platform and was designed to recover the ships that do not have enough fuel to return to the launch site. Now, one of my favourite things about this (not at all ignoring the fact that a rocket is landing on a platform in the ocean), is the fact that all those ships are named in honour of the sci-fi legend Ian M. Banks. Just Read the Instructions (operates from the Pacific) and Of Course I still Love you (operates from the Atlantic) are the names of the starships that appear in Banks’s, The Player of Games book. Elon Musk is building a third drone ship called A Shortfall of Gravitas and it is believed that it will handle landings from Cape Canaveral. It’s difficult not to admit it, Elon Musk is living every nerd’s life and we are all loving it.
SpaceX has already called for unmanned missions to Mars as early as 2022, followed by the first human flight to the Red Planet and has proposed the development of a Mars transportation infrastructure to support the colonisation of the planet. I can talk about Elon Musk and SpaceX all day long, as I personally believe everything he does is vital for our survival today and for generations to come. But more about him, SpaceX and Tesla in another blog. Let’s see who else is trying to get a piece of the space race action.
As part of Virgin Group, Virgin Galactic aims to provide suborbital flights to space tourists and suborbital launches of space missions. The company proposes to launch rockets from a plane in the upper atmosphere, which doesn’t sound like a bad idea. This way, the rocket is avoiding flying through low, dense atmosphere, which requires significant amounts of propellant.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jeff Bezos is also competing for a place in the space race. Blue Origin was founded in 2000 and it’s focusing on enabling private human access to space. The company’s logo is Gradatim Ferociter, which translates to “Step by Step, Ferociously” from Latin and its name refers to our little blue dot, as the origin of the flight.
The Blue Origin’s rocket is named after the first man in space, Alan Shephard, and it’s a reusable suborbital rocket, designed to take astronauts and payloads to past the Karman line. Sources suggest that a single ticket costs between $200,000 and $300,000, which is as high as the trip itself. It’s a bit out of my budget at the moment, but I hope there are people out there that will invest in this and take the trip for all of us. The view will certainly offer quite a different perspective on things.
I would like to end this blog by asking you to think about how precious we all are. There might not be any other civilisation our there, in our Milky Way Galaxy. It could be just us. This makes us responsible for how we preserve knowledge, what we leave behind and how we grow as a species. Be a respectful and good person, that doesn’t require much and it always pays off!
*Full Disclosure: I am aware of the fact that the title of the blog is taken from Star Trek, whilst the image features Han Solo and Chewie. I like both the title of the blog and Star Wars, so sci-fi geeks, please don’t rip into me.