We’re living in an age where space travel looks increasingly feasible. Multiple companies, owned by billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson, have announced plans for commercial space flight as soon as 2022. As has been the case with virtually all commercialized modes of travel, in the beginning these trips will be prohibitively expensive. Branson’s Virgin Galactic has reportedly sold 8,000 reservations already, but to the tune of $250,000 a piece. For many would-be civilian astronauts, this is an understandable basis for despondency.
Don’t let the cost fool you
While watching the Kardashians and the D’Amelios be the first to enter orbit live on Instagram does sound a bit unmusical, it certainly would not be inharmonious with past iterations of similar phenomena. Transcontinental air travel was first the daring endeavor of lone celebrity figures like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. Before that, cars were rare exhibitions of elite wealth and fashion, shaping culture for a public mostly observing from afar.
Today, riding in your friend’s car to the airport is as unremarkable as a horse drawn carriage once was. In the near future, so too may be the act of boarding a vessel and leaving the earth’s atmosphere. What will drive us to do such a thing en masse? How soon will we really be able to?
One compelling possibility is that we will go to space for vacation. Who wouldn’t want to stay at a resort on the moon? This is well beyond a merely hypothetical question; the space tourism market is estimated to be worth upwards of $2.5 billion by 2031. Once the ball starts rolling, a whole range of space travel opportunities could emerge, not only for civilians but businesses and researchers as well.
The obvious question that remains uncertain is when all of this will actually start to happen in real life. Programs like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are already building infrastructure and running test flights. In fact, SpaceX is just days away from launching an all-civilian crew into orbit – the first in human history.
However, the results of these developmental experiments are yet to be witnessed, and it stands to reason that the experimentation will carry on for some time. Space is quite literally the most alien environment to send human beings into, and from a commercial standpoint, the liabilities and complex variables are immense.
Despite this, experts seem to largely agree that space travel is a real possibility in the not-too-distant future. This fantasy, so recently unique to the fiction of movies and comics, is in all likelihood one that those of us living today may actually get to experience for real.