At one point in time, the thought of man travelling to outer space was nothing but a dream. It wasn’t until 1961, when Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut, embarked on man’s first flight around the Earth’s orbit. In the short period since, space travel has rapidly progressed. From the Moon Landing in 1969 to the deployment of the International Space Station in 1998, numerous government agencies and private companies have been created with the sole purpose of advancing the space industry.
What’s next for space travel? Tourism. Imagine flying around the Earth’s orbit as casually as flying on a trip to the Bahamas! Sounds great, right? We all know that we have the technology for spaceflight but are we at the point where an ordinary person can fly into space? The answer is yes but a yes with a very big asterisk.
Virgin Galactic, founded by billionaire Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin Group), was created for that exact purpose: commercial space travel. Recently, the eccentric entrepreneur joined an exclusive group of nearly 600 people in history that successfully left Earth’s atmosphere after a successful test-flight aboard his ship, Unity.
The company plans on launching space tourists in the near future, bringing the opportunity to venture into space to everyone. Well, actually, NOT everyone. Remember that big asterisk that was mentioned? A ticket on a Virgin Galactic flight comes with a hefty $250,000 price-tag (enough for a home down payment!). Despite the astronomical fee, there are already 600 people from over 60 countries who have paid and registered to board Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflights, most likely blasting off in a year or two.
Now that we know an ordinary person can fly into space, can an ordinary person AFFORD to fly into space? For now, the experience is only reserved to a limited group of people who can afford it but there is hope that one day, everyone and anyone can travel amongst the stars. In a recent interview with NPR, Branson explained the possibility of more affordable space travel, stating that airplane flights were once only a luxury that the rich could afford. He mentioned that gradually in the next few decades, “[Virgin Galactic] will be able to bring the price down.”
Although we still have a long way to go before space travel is fully-commercialized, it’s inspiring to hear that little-by-little, we are becoming more familiar with space and exploring the unknown. Space travel is one of many impressive human feats and serves as an important reminder of how far we’ve come. It wouldn’t be surprising if one day, humanity finds a way to settle outside of Earth.
If given the chance, would you voyage into the depths of space?