Time to Travel to Space – Exploration & Collaboration
Though the spacecraft of the Virgin Galactic, a private space travel company, being well within the Earth’s atmosphere broke apart during the test flight, killing a pilot and injuring a co-pilot, the risks involved, such as this tragic incident, could not stop the commercialization of the space travel. The involvement of the private sector organization is on a steady rise. The private sector companies like Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corporation, Amazon’s Blue Origin, etc., are emerging and operating with all the necessary approvals from the Government. This industry not only requires huge amount of funds to operate and procure necessary supplies, but also it involves huge risks such as losing lives of people on a space travel or space mission, losing all the efforts put into building a system, in the fractions of a second when an explosion or any tragic incident happens with the spacecraft.
The History of the Space Race
In the 1960s, the space race was one of the major components that fueled the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The cold war was waged between US and USSR in almost all sectors such as technology, politics and rights, military and strategic advantage in order to gain the prominence of the world superpower economic status. During World War-II, larger machines and accurate devices were developed to launch long-range rockets, devices to carry a payload across few hundred miles during wartime.
In 1957, The Soviet successfully launched the Sputnik, an artificial satellite communication device, to orbit around the earth. In 1959, The Soviet launched its lunar probe -Lunik on the moon. It also launched Vostok, a one-man space capsule which carried cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961, thus claiming to deploy the human in space for the first time in the history of the world.
Competing with The Soviet, The United States launched its first artificial satellite – the Explorer in 1958 followed by the successful landing of the Apollo 11 craft on the moon in 1969 which carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, thus claiming to be the world’s first manned spacecraft on the moon.
In 1972, the Apollo-Soyuz test project was launched signifying the joint collaboration of American and Russian forces to conduct joint and separate scientific and engineering experiments in space. In collaboration with NASA, the Government support continued to extend in space research and development programs which included many unmanned and manned missions to space such as Project –X-15, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Soyuz, Explorer, Viking, Mariner, Pioneer, Voyager, and the recent being Phoenix.
In 1981, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) started focusing on the Space Shuttle programs which included women and minorities commanding the shuttle flights. In 1983, a Spacelab was designed in collaboration with European space agency (ESA) to simulate the space shuttle missions. In 1995, Mission Shuttle-Mir was launched where the American vehicle docked with Russian spacecraft. This strong collaboration of the world’s giant economic forces -the Americans and the Russians –extended its arms to include European countries, Japan, Canada and other interested countries of the world. These countries partnered to form a global collaboration “The International Space Station (ISS)” pioneering in space engineering and technology. Launched in 1998, the ISS is the largest scientific space program and is a world-renowned space project which earmarked the permanent presence of the humans in space.
The ISS is a vessel with a series of cylindrical cabins used for work and the habitation of humans in space. The ISS has an array of solar photovoltaic cells spread above the outer structure of the vessel. Men and Women use the ISS to live in the space alongside carrying out and managing the mission’s experiments. An Astronauts’ weightless existence in space includes activities such as walking in the space, flying the shuttle, conducting and studying the experiments, maintaining and repairing the equipment.
With an end of Space Shuttle program in 2011, NASA in the 21st century has started working in collaboration with private space travel companies to carry out the space missions autonomously.
The Beginning of Private Space Travel
With many private space travel companies up and running, the endeavors of the rocket scientist, space engineers, and the likes, are paving the way towards the grand future of space exploration. The private space travel companies have made it possible for civilians to visit the space and feel the zero gravity condition. In order to travel to space and experience the weightlessness, one must undergo a rigorous astronaut level training. The costs that these private space travel companies charge could range between 20million USD and 50million USD. The List of Private space travel companies is Richard Branson‘s Virgin Galactic space center, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Orbital science corporation, Amazon’s Blue Origin, Space Adventures, Scaled Composites, Xcor Aerospace, Stratolaunch systems etc.
Space travel is not a fantasy but it’s the reality that could reflect the existence of human race. One simple reason that everybody today would want to become a space traveler is to view Earth from the space beyond the Karman line. This view of the spherical planet in space has a potential to change the mindset of the people for a better reason by giving them the courage to set aside the disputes and crisis of the world and live united in a boundary-free globe. It allows them to realize how privileged they are to be a part of the magnificent universe.
Today, the space technologies are in the experimentation phase and are naïve, but the future of space travel might liftoff the hypersonic spaceflights, thus drastically cutting down the travel time, making it accessible to anyone who pays for it. After 40 years of Yuri Gagarin’s mission, In 2001, Dennis Tito, the first US billionaire citizen, paid 20million USD to take a private spaceflight and lived 7 days in ISS orbiting the Earth. He was then followed by other billionaire civilians such as Mark Shuttleworth, Gregory Olsen, Charles Simonyi and Anousheh Ansari etc.
The notable Indian Origin citizens who worked on the space missions in the past are Kalpana Chawla, Sunitha Williams, Rakesh Sharma and Ravish Malhotra.The list of space travelers from across the globe, who explored the space and contributed to the missions of developments, is expected to increase thus impacting the perspective of space by the society. India’s ISRO, in collaboration with Russia, is working on the human spaceflight project which expected to be launched in 2024.
World Economic Impact
- Increase in research and development activity with respect to space exploration;
- Invention of new advanced technologies and complex engineering techniques of aerospace and space missions;
- Invention of the advanced Communication technologies and devices;
- Foster the entrepreneurship in Space industry instead of depending on Government decisions for the necessary approvals of funding and budgeting the space missions;
- Emergence of private businesses and collaboration of these businesses with Government organizations, scientific research and technology institutions to expand the economy and revenue generation avenues through the space industry;
- Steep rise in the employment generation with focus on skilled labor;
- Rise in literacy levels, as the much-needed production of the skilled labor is directly proportional to the literacy levels of the territory;
- Collect, study, process and experiment the Information from the outer space in order to solve the problems of the modern day Earth such as predictions of a weather change, climatic conditions, and natural disasters;
- Focus on the curiosity of whether a human can survive on the extra-terrestrial space;
- Develop methods to discover, implement and execute the survival techniques, when a human is faced with a dire consequence;
- More the space travelers more will be the demand and supply, thus a steep fall in the cost of a space travel;
- Encourages the involvement of people to be a part of space exploration and to have a rich and unique lifetime experience, be it, for the purposes of recreational activity just to watch the beauty of asteroids, stars and planets using own eyes instead of using a telescope or for the purposes of business tasks such as a journalist reporting the findings of space mission back to the people on Earth, medical and bio-engineering investigations, or educating and learning the wonders of the universe to create the awareness among people on Earth or conduct the survey to discover the survival of life or alien species;
- The workforce of the space travel industry have a capability to create the direct impact on the society as they are well aware of how these projects that they are working and developing would affect the space travelers –Rockets or spaceflights can be launched just for once.If these rockets fail to propel, then it could cost not only the lives of several space travelers but also could result in huge loss of entire financial and technological efforts of engineers and scientist. But otherwise, the workforce of space travel industry could be a practical inspiration for the engineers of the upcoming generations.
Human Health Impact
Yet an untouched but thrilling impact of space travel comes packaged with the side effects. When a human tries to fit himself/herself in the space environment, then the human body responds to the surrounding zero gravity environment and weightlessness by causing nausea, severe headaches for a shorter period until the body adapts to the new setting. When several days are spent in space, due to the stress and strain, the human body develops sleeping and eating disorders, vision problems, sensory problems such as the difference in perception of taste and touch. The human life can be threatened by weakening the cardiovascular tissues, bones, and muscles of the human, brain injuries; the human body is prone to the exposure of various radiations such as high –energy cosmic rays which may later develop into cancer in the human body. When these spaceships return to the Earth, space is left with many satellites orbiting around the earth thus forming huge debris and causing space pollution. Hence it is necessary for the humans to find a way and develop the innovative systems which could attend and protect the health of the astronauts and minimize the risk of the changes in the physiological and cognitive structure of the human behavior when a human body is exposed to the alien surroundings.
Space Missions Tragedies: Kalpana Chawla’s Colombia spacecraft in 2003, Christa McAuliffe’s Challenger spacecraft in 1986, Apollo-1 spacecraft in 1967.All the members of the crew who lost their lives on the mission are the heroes of the space and are honored by the world’s collaborations and civilians.
With a lot of happenings in the Space travel industry, it can be marked that the future generation would have a different world to live. The huge losses, failures, and risks faced by people in this industry and their efforts to make the ends meet, by facing the society’s intolerance and criticism, would pave a path to explore the world of unknowns and would ensure that the human population delves more on space.
Authored by Rekha Harish Rao