There was no industry that was not affected by the pandemic, but one that suffered the least was the space industry. As the world recovers from the health crisis in 2021, the outlook for this type of tourism will change. And even Tom Cruise goes for a walk in space.
However, let’s start with what is most easily accessible. 2021 should be the year of the first suborbital flights with passengers and cost at least $ 250,000 per seat.
With this modality of space tourism, the traveler goes to the “border” between atmosphere and space (80 km to 100 km altitude) and can see the earth from above before he experiences the feeling of weightlessness again for a few minutes.
It’s not a flight to the ISS (International Space Station) that takes about ten days in orbit (at higher speed and altitude), but cheaper than the at least $ 20 million (103 miles) because whoever paid the Russians to do it with one Soyuz ship to go there?
The two major suborbital space tourism companies are expected to deliver significant results in 2021. The most traditional company, Virgin Galactic, has completed its testing in California and has moved to New Mexico where it plans to start its commercial flights.
This month, Virgin conducted a test flight of its VSS Unity spacecraft in its new home, but the space climb was interrupted by a communication error. However, it is certain that they should try again in early 2021 and that there are chances of flying with passengers next year.
There is already a queue for boarding (more than 640 people have bought the reserve), and even NASA has decided to rent a flight from an “astronaut scientist” who sends researcher Alan Stern to carry out a short-term experiment in weightlessness . The truth, however, is that the project was delayed after an accident in 2014 that killed copilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injured pilot Peter Siebold during a test flight. There followed a long process of reviewing and improving the systems and now Virgin appears to be on the right track to go into commercial operation.
In contrast, rival Blue Origin, also in the US, decided not to sell reservations until the system was ready to fly. Between 2015 and 2020, Jeff Bezos’ company tested his New Shepard suborbital vehicle 13 times with 12 successes (and one partial failure, but which would not endanger the lives of passengers in 2015). But all of these flights were unmanned.
The company has yet to fly with people inside, which is expected to happen in 2021, paving the way for commercial operations.
Tom Cruise and his director will shoot from Earth with the spaceship Crew Dragon
Although the cost is much higher, the space tourism market is expected to gain momentum from next year as well. That’s because SpaceX qualified its Crew Dragon capsule for manned flights in 2020 and performed two missions with NASA astronauts.
The trips to the ISS for the American space agency should continue, but the company also plans to sell flights and seats to third parties. By the way, the Axiom company has already hired a mission for 2021 and is in the final stages of organizing three more flights for 2022 and 2023.
Astronaut Michael López-Alegría (as Axiom’s hired commander), Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe, actor Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman are scheduled to enter orbit on the AX-1 in October (as mission is set). The last two will be working together on a film project with filming in space.
The values per seat have not yet been published, but they will certainly remain in the tens of millions. However, the hope is that as travel becomes more common and competition between aerospace companies increases, the price will fall. This is not for 2021, but it will happen.
As you look out over the horizon, it’s worth keeping an eye on SpaceX’s spaceship project. Elon Musk’s company hopes with him to not only build a spaceship that can promote the colonization of Mars, but also promote space travel point by point on Earth. Imagine driving from São Paulo to Tokyo in 45 minutes with a passage through space?
This is one of the ideas Starship can bring to life if it really works. And, according to Musk, at the price of a conventional plane ticket. Fantasy? It could even be. But the vertical landing of the first rocket stages was also until SpaceX made it commonplace in just a few years.
For the vast majority of people, however, space travel will continue to be too expensive and dangerous, at least in 2021. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from getting into space and space exploration. We’re going to have some very interesting events like two landings on Mars (an American rover will try the feat in February and another Chinese one in April-May) and the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in October, which will produce remote images becomes depths of the universe.
And if you want an astronomical excuse to tour our planet, an annular solar eclipse (where the moon covers practically all of the sun except for a narrow ring) will be visible in northern Canada and parts of Greenland and Northwestern Greenland on June 10th Russia.