The private spaceflight for four tourists, commanded by billionaire Jared Isaacman on September 15, has renewed questions about the legitimacy of such trips space tourism.
In this case, the flight really was for tourists, especially if compared to the space missions of space tourism Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and business magnate Richard Branson. But the questions remain the same. Not from a legal point of view – everyone has the right to spend their money on whatever they want – but rather from an ethical perspective.
In recent days, criticism of this type of activity has multiplied. It’s been a recurring criticism since the first space tourism spaceflights, particularly, of missions to the Moon.
Flying into space will always be expensive. But it is difficult to imagine how it could develop in the future
All of these very respectable opinions leave out an undeniable fact. in universities that have provided the theoretical foundations for the trips; and in the thousands and thousands of professionals, of all levels of qualification, who have taken part in the adventure. The space industry stimulates and absorbs enormous amounts of talent.
He replied: “For you sir, I don’t know.
But is space tourism obscenely extravagant? Perhaps it’s worthwhile to look back and try to bring out the lessons from history.
They scratched together a few dollars here and there offering rides to locals who had never before seen a plane. And they also came up with more risky ideas: crashing an aircraft into a barn, playing tennis on the wings of the plane, putting up a trapeze and jumping from one plane onto another in mid-flight. These were risky circus acts that had no greater goal than to entertain and frighten the spectator.
Flying circuses disappeared when the US federal government released strict norms to guarantee the safety of flights. By then, the trend had evolved to make way for air mail services, then later, the passenger airlines for short-haul trips, as well as milestones that had seemed impossible. Before crossing the Atlantic Ocean by himself and becoming a legend, Charles Lindbergh had worked for a flying circus.
The space industry stimulates and absorbs enormous amounts of talent
At the end of the 1920s, the appearance of planes with metallic airframes and the ability to hold a dozen passengers turned air transportation into a potentially profitable business. Pan American Airways gained importance by offering connections between the United States and South America; others, such as Imperial Airways, established the longest flight route, connecting London with Brisbane via Delhi and Bangkok. Although in the beginning passengers on this flight were mostly administrative staff of the British empire,
in a few years, the number rose from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands.
Space tourism will probably never reach this level of popularity. Flying into space will always be expensive. But it is difficult to imagine how it could develop in the future. Tesla founder Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars and turn humans into a multi-planetary species, a dream that is still a long way off. More feasible is the adaptation of space capsules for long-haul trips. In this way, flying to the other side of the world would be a 45-minute trip.
Rafael Clemente is an industrial engineer and the founder and first director of the
Barcelona Science Museum (today known as CosmoCaixa). He is also the author of “Un pequeño paso para [un] hombre” (or, One Small Step for [a] Man).