SPACEX’S STARSHIP, SCHEDULED TO BEGIN PASSENGER SERVICE IN 2021, HAS BROUGHT THE ERA OF SPACE TOURISM UPON US… AT LAST
BY EVAN MONROE
Ever since Space Exploration Technologies Corp., aka SpaceX, was founded by Elon Musk in 2002, its broad mandate has been to reduce costs associated with space travel through privatization, and most recently has been planning a human mission to Mars. Even with well documented mishaps such as rockets that failed to leave the pad (or exploded shortly after launch) or the failure in a number of attempts to have rocket segments land themselves, SpaceX’s achievements have been simply stupendous, including producing the first privately funded liquid propellant rocket that reached orbit (2008), the first private enterprise to launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft (2010), the first private company to reach the International Space Station (2012), and a number of other “never before”s. At a NASA demonstration in March of this year, it conducted a first launch of its multi-use Crew Dragon spacecraft, and is scheduled to launch the first fully manned Crew Dragon mission later this year.
To nonprofessional astronauts, part of SpaceX’s promise has always been advancing the concept of beyond-Earth tourism, and it has taken a significant leap in that direction with the unveiling of its Starship launch vehicle and spacecraft designs. Slated to begin service in 2021 (a prototype completed a short launch in August) and engineered to have the capacity, ultimately, to bring human beings and supply goods to the Moon, Mars, and further, it will, in early tourism missions, bring customers to a low Earth orbit. Thanks to recent-years development of reusable boosters, ticket prices, which were initially expected to hover in the low $60 million range, have dropped by $12 million in just the last 12 months. Advancements include an ability to return to Starship’s initial launch pad and a remarkable amount of interior room, with enlarged designs capable of accommodating up to 40 passengers.
SpaceX Starship Tickets: $50 million (estimated), spacex.com