In a few months, I’ll be taking a tour of NASA’s Space Center in Houston, TX and geeking out over all things space. This is a big deal for me as I’ve always been keen on the idea of space travel and have long yearned to leave Earth’s gravity behind for the thrill of extra-terrestrial travel. This is also why I’m excited to see Amazon’s New Shepard rocket successfully re-launch today.
The Commercial Space Travel Race
In 2007, SpacePort America was announced and is now offering tours and hosting rocket and spaceship launches. The next year, Virgin Galactic announced SpaceShip Two, promising to make space flight commercially available, but that hasn’t been without its troubles. In 2014, SpaceShip Two crashed, killing one of the pilots. Meanwhile, Elon Musk (PayPal, Tesla) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) have been racing to be the first to launch and land a rocket for re-use. Hours ago, Amazon’s Blue Origin won that race by successfully re-launching New Shepard, which had launched and landed late last year. Musk’s, SpaceX hasn’t been far behind, launching and landing their Falcon 9 rocket just a month after New Shepard.
The Future of Passenger Space Travel
While Virgin Galactic has been pre-booking seats to space for quite some time, the reality is that none of these companies are flying the rest of us normal people into space yet. There’s still a lot to work out in terms of safety and stability. Once the safety issues are completely ironed out, there’s still the matter of cost. Currently, Virgin Galactic requires $250,000 to fly and I’m sure our other options will come in around the same price. As these companies figure out how to fly more people at a time and lower their costs, we should see the prices come down some, but I don’t expect to spend any less than 5 figures for a long time. Still, this re-launch of New Shepard is a big deal. Every subsequent launch reduces the overhead costs to Amazon’s Blue Origin, which we can only hope will lower the cost per seat.