“Space, the final frontier…”
These four words gave fuel to the imagination of countless man, women and children. It did not only inspire Trekkies in search of beautiful green or blue women that Priceline pitchman William Shatner regularly “met” in his role of Captain Kirk, but perhaps it also inspired Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic). Space travel still captures our imagination today, most recently in Axe’s new astronaut-themed campaign for its Axe Apollo-branded products.
Science fiction aside, low-earth orbit (LEO) travel will be transformative for long-haul travel. The space shuttle or International Space Station travels at 17,500 mph and orbits the earth in just over 90 minutes. A trip from New York to Tokyo, including takoff and landing would take about 90 minutes instead of 14 hours. New York to Sydney about 2 hours instead of 22.
A small world gets smaller.
Today you can get to go to space if you have a spare $20M lying around. Like air travel, LEO flights will be the province of the super-rich for a time before it becomes economically feasible for the rest of us. It’s all very exciting and I only hope that I wasn’t born too late to try it.
The Obama administration decision to leave the commercialization of low-earth orbit to private industry and even by-pass the Moon seems a wise one. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse-Tyson says: “We have been there, done that”. So the next mission is to Mars. We have recently landed the Curiosity Rover and gotten numerous images and data. The next step is to send people. But Mars isn’t a trivial pursuit. Such a trip is frought with dangers and it is far. Much further than people really can comprehend.
David Poliwoda created an amazing webpage-cum-infographic that gives you a great idea of exactly how far it really is. Definitely worth checking out.