Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX was founded with the goal to create a spacefaring civilization. The aerospace company is actively developing technologies that will enable humans to travel to Earth orbit, the moon, and Mars. In May, SpaceX conducted its first crewed voyage to space. A Falcon 9 rocket propelled a pair of NASA astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a journey to the International Space Station (ISS). After a two-month stay at the station, the astronauts returned aboard Dragon; It crossed Earth’s rough atmosphere and conducted a parachute-assisted splashdown in the ocean. The successful mission marked the beginning of a new era in American human spaceflight. SpaceX demonstrated its spacecraft and rocket are reliable to safely carry out crewed missions to space.
After the historic astronauts’ return, the President of SpaceX and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell talked about how SpaceX’s first crewed flight paves the way for future missions to space. “This mission was incredibly smooth. Not to say that there weren't things that we want to work on and do better next time, but the capsule worked beautifully,” she said. “We certainly feel comfortable that we're on the right path to carry commercial passengers.”
SpaceX will not only carry astronauts to the space station, the company aims to offer space tours to private citizens aboard the Dragon spacecraft. “This is really just the beginning,” she said, “We are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low-Earth orbit and on to the moon, and then ultimately on to Mars.”
“We are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low-Earth orbit and on to the moon, and then ultimately on to Mars.”
SpaceX’s website advertises space tours for private passengers to “experience our home planet from over 300 kilometers up.” The ISS orbiting laboratory is at around 400 kilometers; astronauts have shared hundreds of stunning photographs showcasing Earth’s curvature from that altitude.
“Experience Earth’s wonders from space – from the Great Barrier Reef, Himalayas, Amazon River, and Giza’s Pyramids by day, to the glow of city lights, lightning storms, and the Aurora Borealis by night,” SpaceX states on its website, “Dragon fully orbits the Earth every 90 minutes, making a highly customized flight path possible. Fly over your hometown, famous landmarks and other places meaningful to you.”
To date, two space tourism agencies have announced their partnership with SpaceX to launch private citizens to space aboard Crew Dragon.
Space Adventures announced earlier this year it signed a deal with SpaceX to launch 4 private citizens to orbit aboard Crew Dragon. The mission is scheduled to take place sometime in late 2021, early 2022. “This historic mission will forge a path to making spaceflight possible for all people who dream of it, and we are pleased to work with the Space Adventures team on the mission,” Shotwell told reporters in February. During the Space Adventures mission, Dragon will not head to the orbiting laboratory; it will remain in orbit cruising around Earth for around 5 days at an altitude of about 500 miles to 850 miles above Earth, that is two to three times the 250-mile height of the space station – the highest altitude that any private citizen in history has ever been to!
Another space tourism agency, Axiom, signed a deal with SpaceX to launch the crew of four private passengers atop a Falcon 9 rocket aboard Crew Dragon. They will embark on a 10-day voyage to the Space Station sometime during the second half of 2021.
Dragon is capable of carrying 4 to 7 passengers, booking a seat is priced at around $55 million. Seeing Earth from space would be the most wonderful experience someone could witness in their lifetime. Even though today these voyages are only affordable for the super-wealthy, SpaceX is developing a next-generation spacecraft that aims to one day enable hundreds to see our beautiful home planet from space. Starship is actively under development in South Texas; It will be capable of transporting 100 passengers to the moon or Mars, and 1,000 passengers into orbit, Earth-to-Earth trips (watch video below). Shotwell told reporters last year SpaceX could begin offering Earth-to-Earth transport services as early as the year 2025, “This is definitely going to happen,” she said, adding that it could probably take roughly 10 years until tickets cost a little more than an economy class airplane flight but cheaper than a first-class ticket.
Starship Earth-to-Earth Trips