Released over half a century back, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ held movie-goers in awe. But did you know many of its depictions, then considered unrealistic, turned real in the decades to come? Such as Earth-orbiting revolving space stations with permanent crews and flat screen monitors and astronauts jogging in space.
And now with private companies vying to launch their commercial flights into space, maybe the day is not far off when we will find luxurious space stations operating regular trips carrying regular people (such as administrators as shown in the film) turn real.
The latest being billionaire Jeff Bezos' company, Blue Origin, which announced that it is offering one seat to the winning bidder of an online auction on its spacecraft New Shepard, scheduled to take off on its first suborbital trip on July 20 this year.
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Interestingly, the race to hold commercial space flights is divided between companies owned by three billionaire entrepreneurs -- Virgin Galactic (Richard Branson), Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos) and SpaceX (Elon Musk).
The reusable suborbital rocket system New Shephard is named after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space.
One of the most interesting features of New Shepard’s pressurized crew capsule is its windows, in fact the largest windows to have flown in space, the company said, with each passenger getting a window seat.
As part of today’s rehearsals, our stand-in astronauts went through the exact same movements as future customers will experience on launch day. Take a look at their trip to the pad and loading into the capsule: pic.twitter.com/gLrtBHFq1h— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) April 14, 2021
Everyone aboard New Shephard are passengers as there is no pilot.
The first tourist in space title goes to American engineer and entrepreneur Dennis Tito when he spent nearly eight days in orbit as a crew member of ISS EP-1, a visiting mission to the International Space Station (ISS). This mission was launched by the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-32, and was landed by Soyuz TM-31. According to media reports, Tito’s self-funded trip in 2001 (took off on April 28) cost USD 20 million.
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It is said that after Tito, seven people have gone on similar trips to the ISS, organised by Space Adventures, travelling by the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Musk’s SpaceX, which has plans to take people orbiting around the Earth, is likely to hold its first trip in September this year and the second one sometime in 2022.
According to reports, Virgin Galactic is scheduled to operate its private flights in 2022; the first flight is expected to operate late this year with owner Branson on board.
Although the cost of tickets will be expensive, according to many experts, those taking the suborbital route will be able to offer tickets at a relatively lower price point.
While we have to wait to know who will win the bid to the single seat on New Shephard until June 12 when the live auction will take place, for the lucky traveller, the 11-minute flight on New Shepard ‘will be the experience of a lifetime’, promises Blue Origin.