Blue Origin Spacex

Business behind the Space tourism

Recently SpaceX made a shocking announcement saying that it will fly two people to the moon next year. The news came from SpaceX founder and chief executive officer, Elon Musk. In a news conference, he said two people have already paid SpaceX a “significant” amount of money to send them on a weeklong flight just beyond the moon and back. It should be mentioned, that this has not been attempted since NASA’s Apollo moon landings about 45 years ago. Elon Musk’s plan is “a bold challenge” says Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF). The group has more than 70 members in the spaceflight business, including Musk’s SpaceX.

Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation .

He started SpaceX with his money, and now has large contracts with NASA and the U.S. defense department. Now he`s working on building reusable rockets. But Musk is not alone in the business race into space. Blue Origin, owned by Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, is also developing reusable rockets, which will significantly bring down the cost of going into space.

But why space? Why are wealthy business people sending their money into space? The answer is – money, of cause. Stallmer says there is “a huge marketplace”. There’s tremendous opportunities to be made, from the commercial aspect of it. Whether it is providing data or communications or remote sensing information. And then the idea that people just want to go to space. The commercial space business took off around 2008 when the country was in an economic recession, and many high-tech scientists were out of a job. Plus, he says, the cost of doing space business is coming down with new technology. “There’s eighth graders that are building small satellites, these microsats that are going up and performing real world missions for hundreds, and maybe a thousand dollars. And you are seeing companies that are building larger satellite constellations, very affordably.”

Elon Musk’s plan to go to the moon is “a very risky mission,” says Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer of The Franklin Institute science museum in Philadelphia. He says that while people may question whether a non-government group can achieve this goal, he thinks SpaceX can.

Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer of The Franklin Institute science museum.

“This is a brand new track in which companies are trying to provide opportunity for regular people, non-astronauts, non-military to be able to consider a trip to space as a viable vacation option,” says Pitts. Now, for about $5,000, a company called Zero G provides rides in a specially designed plane to give people short moments of experiencing the weightlessness of being in space. “The prices are already beginning to drop and more opportunities will be available for all the rest of us to possibly have some piece of that adventure of being a space explorer.”

As commercial space companies grow, the role of NASA in the U.S. is changing. Some critics say NASA is too careful and too slow and that has left it behind these private companies. But Pitts defends the U.S. space agency, saying NASA is limited by what lawmakers in Congress allow the agency to do. “It’s not that NASA doesn’t have the talent, doesn’t have the desire, they certainly do. But these independent companies don’t have to deal with the bureaucratic problems that NASA also has.”

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