Amazon’s New Shepard Launches and Lands Again

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.

Introducing The New Space Race

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.

The New Space Race

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.

Virgin Galactic
(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 One
(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

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.

Infinity Control iPhone Game : Space Traffic Control

Although the following is a sponsored review, as always I strive to provide an honest opinion of the product reviewed.

I love my iPhone games. With my busy lifestyle, I rarely have time to get a game loaded up on my WII or XBox and just a few minutes of game play is all I’m looking for at a time. So many games on the iPhone meet my basic gaming criteria and Infinity Control is no exception.

Infinity Control iPhone Game

Game Play

The game’s creator offers this introduction to Infinity Control:

Welcome Recruit! You have just joined the Federation of International Space Marines! You start on earth where you learn the basics managing incoming craft while avoiding passing by satellites, then you will help the researchers maneuver craft around the dense asteroids of Saturn. Keep ahead of satellites orbiting around earth while docking ships! Watch out! The random appearance of black holes is possible!

Playing the game is as simple as drawing lines with your finger… but the lines are flight paths… for space ships. The screen shot below should give you a pretty good idea of what it takes to become a flight controller in space.

Infinity Control iPhone Game

Over all, the game play is pretty straight forward and very easy to get the hang of.

Strategy and Features

The strategy of the game is just as simple as the controls. You have a red space station and a blue one on the screen. Entering the screen from all sides will be red and blue space ships. Your goal is to get each ship to dock safely to its matching colored space port. To do this, you swipe your finger along the screen to draw a flight path. As with any flight control, you need to make sure that you don’t direct your space ships into each other or other objects. The video below demonstrates this.

The game starts out incredibly easy and gradually increases in complexity as you play. Having to think about the colliding paths and plan ahead is critical to getting a good score, often involving re-thinking your ship’s path a couple times to avert disasters.

Conclusion

This was a fun game, but very simple. With limited goals and no enemies or weapons, it’s more of a test of coordination than it is a battle or puzzle game. At $0.99, it’s as cheap as it gets (other than free) and it does offer the ability to just play forever, unlike games with levels that get beaten. For a buck, it’s a good game that will remain unbeatable for as long as you play it, which is always good. Get your own copy and let me know how long it takes to beat my high score of 77.