Did you ever want to be an astronaut when you were a kid? A lot of us did, but as we grew older, we learned that some dreams are harder to accomplish. This was the case for me but even as my goals became more realistic, I never lost my child-like curiosity with space. I love a full, bright moon, you can find me staring skyward during most any meteor shower, and I have even renewed my goal of travelling to space one day. My dream may now have less to do with innocent naivety and more to do with waiting and saving every dollar.
This article isn’t just about my personal dreams of space travel, though. It’s about an amazing shift in space exploration on the whole and how it will effect us now and in the years to come.
Privatized Space Travel
Growing up, we all learned that to go to space, you had to become an astronaut. While that’s a glamorous job title, it also means 4-5 years of training and brutal physical endurance testing. And let’s face it. Your odds of becoming an astronaut are about as likely as those of winning the lottery. Luckily, you can now just buy yourself a seat on a galactic flight.
(photo: Virgin Galactic)
Companies like Virgin Galactic are offering reservations and have been for some time. The ticket to ride with Virgin Galactic is a hefty $200,000, but the first seats have had no trouble selling and it’s no surprise. I’d buy a ticket in a second if I had $200K lying around like Ashton Kutcher, who reportedly reserved the 500th seat.
Another company making strides in commercial space flight is SpaceX, who just last week successfully sent their unmanned SpaceX Dragon capsule into space, making it the first private vessel to go to the International Space Station. The success of the Dragon capsule is a sign of things to come and proof that private companies can hold their own in a playground previously reserved for governments.
Live On Mars
The last decade has brought us more discovery of the surface of Mars then we’ve ever imagined, showing us vivid pictures of a strange new world, but have you ever wished you could move there? Believe it or not, hundreds of people have asked for just that rare opportunity.
(Mars colony rendering: Mars One)
Mars One is another commercial venture into space, but instead of just a vacation, Mars One is a move to another planet. With the lofty goal to begin colonizing Mars with human beings, Mars One plans to take four people at a time on a one-way trip to Mars, where they will live the rest of their lives.
Much like the reality-TV style civilian space travel we’ve seen in more than a few sci-fi flicks, Mars One aims to fund their Mars colonization project by televising everything and courting corporate backers. Although I won’t be packing my bags and volunteering, I can’t wait for the show. It will surely be a first for mankind if they can pull it off. Sadly, the first team won’t land until April, 2023, so we have a long wait ahead of us.
Mining asteroids is not quite as exciting as sending average Joe Techs into space, but it certainly seems more practical. Following with the theme of corporate endeavors that seem like they’ve been yanked straight from science fiction movies, a company called Planetary Resources is readying themselves to land on, and mine asteroids for water and precious metals. Most of the precious metals we mine on earth today came from asteroids and they say that one asteroid may contain more platinum than has been mined in all of history, which is an incredible thought on its own. If successful, Planetary Resources will vastly increase the GDP of the United States while making many resources virtually limitless and helping provide for deeper space exploration.
What do you think? Should we be mining asteroids? Would you pay $200K for space travel or leave the Earth behind completely and move to Mars? Comment below and share on Facebook to see which of your friends would be volunteer Martians.