Discussed for decades, private space travel is getting surprisingly close. We’ve all read about flights Space X has undertaken for NASA. Three companies, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s Space X, and more recently Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, have spent billions of dollars researching and developing ways to transport private customers into space. Each company takes a different approach at the same mission. Real private space travel now appears to be right on the horizon.
Bezos created the first privately-owned space company, Blue Origin, in 2000. Since then the company has successfully deployed and reused its ”New Shepard” rocket on five separate occasions. These multiple successful tests have given promise to transporting space tourists in the near future. According to Bezos, civilian space travel will become a mainstream activity in the next few years. However, Blue Origin has no flights scheduled for the next 5 years.
Elon Musk’s Space X was launched after Blue Origin, in 2002. Space X shares the Blue Origin concept of multiple reusable rocket launches, but is more ambitious: Space X was founded to colonize space. Musk has been very vocal of his desire to colonize Mars, specifically. But he has not yet estimated when this dream will turn into reality. In the meantime, Space X focuses on shorter civilian space flights to spark greater interest for future space colonization. There is currently one trip projected for two passengers to orbit the moon; it will take place in mid 2019 at the earliest.
The latest to the game is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, founded in 2004. Although the other two private space companies have taken government or commercial contracts as they develop, Virgin Galactic prioritizes civilian space travel. As a result, it took a different approach than reusable rocket systems. Instead, a large plane, White Knight Two, carries the orbiting craft to an altitude of ten miles. From there, the released SpaceShipTwo flies passengers 60 miles higher into sub-orbit before returning and landing. The first flight may be as early as this year. Tickets are being sold for $250,000 per person.
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