Space Tourism has arrived!!
It goes without saying that humans have made exceptional progress in space exploration and the space industry has been growing by leaps and bounds. Space exploration which used to be limited to only space museums, TV shows, movies and novels is now become a reality. Yes, space tour is now possible.
The idea of space has always been one of the ultimate fantasies of humanity. Considering the enthusiasm for space travel, many private companies ventured into the space industry to develop plans for taking people into space for leisure or recreational activities. Few of them even succeeded….
Here’s a look at 2021’s milestones and significant moments in the history of Space Travel:
22nd May 2021 – Virgin Galactic Unity 21’s First Human Spaceflight from New Mexico
Sir Richard Branson’s private spaceship company, Virgin Galactic, completed its first successful rocket-powered flight from New Mexico, piloted by David Mackay and co-piloted by Frederick Sturckow.
The spaceplane lifted off at a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the Virgin Mothership (VMS) Eve, and reached space at an altitude of 55.45 miles (89.24 kilometers), before landing at Spaceport America.
The company had been working towards creating a commercial spaceline offering tourist trips for nearly two decades and this VSS Unity flight was its first test launch since 2019, a big big milestone!
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11th July 2021: Virgin Galactic Unity 22 – Billionaire Entrepreneur and Adventurer Richard Branson makes Space history
The proud founder of Virgin Galactic, 70-year-old daredevil billionaire Sir Richard Branson, fulfilled his life-long ambition by travelling to space in his own rocket. Branson called the flight an “experience of a lifetime”.
The flamboyant billionaire along with his five Virgin Galactic crew members (four mission specialists and two pilots) embarked on a 90-minute flight aboard one of his own rocket Virgin Galactic VSS Unity to space. The SpaceShipTwo spaceplane took off at 10:40 a.m. ET and safely touched down at 11:38 a.m. in New Mexico.
After landing, a smiling Richard Branson spoke about his marvellous experience in a news conference, “We’re here to make space more accessible to all. We want to turn the next generation of dreamers into the astronauts of today and tomorrow. If you ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true. I’d like to end by saying welcome to the dawn of a new space age”, Branson was quoted saying.
Richard Branson marked his name as the first person to ride into space aboard a rocket he helped fund. The company had spent nearly two decades developing the spaceplane.
This day truly belonged to Branson!
20th July 2021: Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Arrived at ISS aboard Blue Origin NS-16
Amazon founder and richest man in the world Jeff Bezos made a successful trek into space on his company Blue Origin’s first astronaut flight!
The New Shepard Blue Origin rocket took off from Blue Origin’s launch site in Van Horn, Texas at 9 a.m. EST and shot straight up 65+ miles high to the so-called Karman Line, which is referred to as the altitude at which outer space begins. All of this action, from lift off to landing, lasted for 10 minutes and 10 seconds.
Billionaire Jeff Bezos was joined by his brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old student from the Netherlands onboard the rocket, thus setting a record for both the oldest (till William Shatner, 90, flew to space on Blue Origin mission in October, 2021) and youngest person to fly to space.
Indeed, the richest person on earth has now travelled beyond it!
15th September 2021: Elon Musk’s SpaceX Inspiration4 Mission took to the Stars
Inspiration4, run by tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX made history when it launched the world’s first all-civilian mission into Earth’s orbit from Florida’s Space Coast. This is the first time any craft in 60 years of space travel has flown without any professional astronaut on board.
SpaceX’s Inspiration4 lifted off on board a Falcon 9 rocket at 8 p.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Centre’s launch pad, blasting through the night sky over Florida and into orbit. The mission was unique because none of the crew members were professional astronauts or associated with any space company, they underwent minimum training for the mission.
Using a rocket built by Elon Musk, the charity-driven mission was funded by the mission’s commander, tech billionaire Jared Isaacman for the objective of raising awareness and US$200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
What separates SpaceX’s Inspiration4 Mission from the other launches is the destination. While Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin travel high enough to reach the beginning of space before returning to the ground a few minutes later, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and crew Dragon vehicle are much more powerful and took the Inspiration4 crew all the way into orbit, circling the earth for three days.
5th October 2021: First Feature Film shot in Space
In a historic first, a Russian film was shot in space. The Russian film director Klim Shipenko along with actress Yulia Peresild, spent nearly 12 days in the International Space Station (ISS) for filming 30 minutes duration scenes for the film “The Challenge”.
The Russian film crew accompanied by veteran Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov successfully took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station (ISS) in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a 12-day schedule.
The film which is based on the life of a woman doctor who goes to space to save an astronaut’s life, is the first feature film to be ever shot in space.
13th October 2021: Star Trek’s Captain Kirk goes to Space on Blue Origin NS-18
Known to many “Star Trek” fans as Captain James T. Kirk, actor William Shatner rocketed into space aboard a Blue Origin capsule. The New Shepard rocket that carried the crew took off into a mostly sunny sky at 10:50 a.m. at an altitude of 66.5 miles (107 kilometers) over the West Texas desert, then parachuted safely back to Earth in a space flight that lasted for just over 10 minutes.
William Shatner, 90, who officially became the oldest person to reach space, was joined by three fellow passengers, two of them paying customers for a quick flight.
While speaking with Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, Shatner struggled to find the right words to share his experience. “Everybody in the world needs to do this. It was unbelievable… I hope I never recover from this”, an emotional Shatner described his trip.
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8th December 2021: Soyuz MS-20 Mission sends Japanese Billionaire into Space
Japanese billionaire and founder of online Japanese fashion retail website Zozotown, Yusaku Maezawa and video producer Yozo Hirano (who will capture the cosmic experience on camera) ventured into space in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Soyuz MS-20 piloted by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.
The crew blasted off at 7.38 a.m. GMT from the Russian leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, thus beginning their 12-day mission. Their journey took just over six hours. During the mission, Maezawa will perform a number of challenges from a list of 100 tasks such as playing table tennis to getting a haircut in zero-gravity.
The 42-year old entrepreneur will also be SpaceX’s first tourist to the moon. He will fly around the moon aboard Elon Musk’s Starship (a big Falcon Rocket) in a trip tentatively planned around 2023.
11th December 2021: Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin NS-19 Mission successfully launched 3rd Space Tourism Flight
Blue Origin successfully completed its third human spaceflight, with former NFL player and TV personality Michael Strahan, Laura Shepard-Churchley (daughter of Alan Shepard, first American astronaut to travel to space in 1961) and four paying customers into near space on the New Shepard rocket’s NS-19 mission.
The New Shepard rocket took off at 9:45 a.m. EST (1445 GMT) into clear blue skies in West Texas, reaching a maximum velocity of 2,244 mph (3,611 kmh) before returning back to Earth. The total trip time was a little over 10 minutes.
This commendable list has proved that the dream of reaching to the stars is no more only for the trained astronauts and cosmonauts but also for ordinary citizens to reach space, the moon, Mars and beyond.
It is indeed a dream of many to travel to the stars, although very few will ever reach, due to the cost factor. But this should not deter you from dreaming about things that can be achieved on earth itself. The fact remains that there is always something new to discover and explore on our planet; like a new country, a new culture or a new dish.
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