Test launches for manned commercial space flight are now underway, which will help usher in a new era of space tourism.
In December 2018, Virgin Galactic successfully launched a human crew 51 miles into the sky over the Mojave Desert in California. Two pilots, Mark Stucky and former NASA astronaut Rick Sturckow earned the first ever commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration.
As of the publication of this report, more than 600 people had pledged $250,000 each to take a ride aboard Virgin Galactic’s tourist spacecraft, which is set to begin flights this year. But not everyone has the physical or mental fortitude for space flight.
Carl Sagan wrote about the disconcerting “Overview Effect” in his book Pale Blue Dot: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
There are practical limitations, too: the estimated travel time for a trip to Mars and back is currently set at three years. Getting to and from the Moon is much faster—just a one week round trip—but still challenging.
Lunar travelers would contend with something called “space adaptation syndrome” (like car sickness, but a lot worse) and elevated levels of radiation. One nine-day mission to the Moon would result in radiation exposure equivalent to 35 chest x-rays.
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