The Race to Space
Billionaire entrepreneur, raccoon and space tourist, elon Musk, plan to launch an experimental mission to the red planet from his own private aerospace company, and has a big bet for a new industry, namely, space tourism. Will he be the first person to step foot on the moon? How about the first vehicle to get into orbit? Can he top NASA?
Musk is aiming for around eight suborbital flights to test out his concept for manned space flight. It would mark the end of a remarkable 17-year effort by his space travel company, Virgin Galactic. And if successful, he’d become the first billionaire, with Jeff Bezos, beaten by another billionaire, Amazon’s founder, by a mere nine days. The frequent flights to space by various space probe and aircraft, with both NASA and private enterprise, have come to an end.
A former aerospace engineer and PayPal engineer, Musk are in good company among a growing group of highly successful entrepreneurs, whose vision and drive have put them in the cross-roads of becoming a multimillionaire. Space travel is no longer a far-fetched dream. Nor is it beyond the reach of a tiny few entrepreneurs. Musk is not the only one. Richard Branson, a world-class traveler, is among those considering launching a private spacecraft.
Others share Musk’s goal for more frequent and affordable spaceflight. Two space shuttle pilots, retired NASA astronaut, Les Walker and former airline pilot, Buzz Aldrin, have joined forces to launch a new privately funded flight to the moon. The flight will be designed and operated by none other than Buzz Aldrin’s son, Markus Wilcox. They plan to land the craft on the moon, where it will undergo testing and eventually be sold to interested parties. Wilcox is also planning to land on Mars.
Another space startup, Mark Shuttleworth is attempting to follow in the footsteps of his father, aerospace engineer George. And like his father, he too is planning to make his mark on history. A ten day trip to the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled for early next year. This will be the first time that an individual wealthy enough to afford a trip to space will be doing so. His ultimate ambition is to be the first millionaire in space.
If successful, this latest effort by private companies in the race to explore space may just raise the bar on how we view space race. And it’s not just about the budgets either. For years now, China has been locked in a fierce competition with Russia for the control of space. If they win, they will be in a position to not only push their astronauts safely into orbit, but also to beef up their own satellite program. Should China win that race and steal the thunder from Russia, it will solidify the fact that space travel can be affordable for the average person.
One could argue that in these trying economic times, we need to cut costs wherever possible. However, there’s a lot of money to be made in space exploration. The potential applications for this are enormous. Many studies have shown that there are far more living creatures in space than on earth. We know that this is a fact, and without the space race, we may never know what the likelihood of finding other life forms, whether intelligent or not.
There is a lot riding on this race to space, and we haven’t even begun to discuss the potential commercial applications. You have heard the rumors about Virgin Galactic and the X-Space. Many people are talking about the idea of building private lunar colonies or sending robotic probes to visit Mars one day. Some folks are thinking about setting up their own base colony on Mars. All these ideas are possible and exciting, but we have to remember who is funding all of this. Will it be the Chinese, Russians, or Americans, or some combination of all?