Commercial Space Flight – The Beginnings
With space travel now deregulated and free for private companies to send cargo into space, private flights for humans were the next big challenge on the radar. In 2004 a company won the $10 million X Prize by launching their craft, SpaceShipOne, into orbit. The competition rules stated the craft needed to be capable of carrying human passengers (though none were on board). This impressive achievement attracted the attention of Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic, who arranged to fund the launch of the next vehicle (to be an ill fated test flight 10 years later). Since this point in time the modern day private space race has commenced.
Big Companies with Big Goals
Huge investment has flooded into the private space tourism and cargo industry along with some major brain power. Space X already operates with cargo in space, their ultimate goal is enabling people to live on other planets. The hugely publicized Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson, has the aim of creating a Spaceline for Earth the democratizes access to space for the benefit of life on earth. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin as a space tourism business in 2010, but it has since reverted to producing rocket engines. Larry Page and Eric Schmidt from Google are backers of Planetary Sciences, a group which plans to mine asteroids for precious metals – truly the realm of science fiction films. The biggest minds and the biggest wallets have been drawn into space travel, the question just remains – when will it be feasible for humans to travel safely and affordably?DESKTOP