In the last several years, man’s dream of exploring the frontiers of space has been reinvigorated. This is largely due to efforts by a host of private companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, that are working alongside government agencies to bring cargo, and ultimately people, beyond earth’s atmosphere. Now the media is talking about a profitable space industry, a human visit to Mars, and even space tourism.
As part of this renewed effort, the aesthetics of space travel are getting an upgrade. The spaceships themselves are becoming more comfortable and even beginning to look like the ships in the decades-old comic books, science fiction novels, and movies of the past.
Preparing To Bring Humans Into Space
Of all the private corporations that are working to partner with governments to advance space travel, SpaceX is developing a continual series of launches to refine the process of—and types of crafts used in—exploring beyond the earth. The company was founded in 2002 with a mission to revolutionize space technology so that humans can live on other planets. Since it’s founding, SpaceX has contracted more than 100 launches and become credited for its participation in a modern space race aimed at creating a new wave of travel and exploration.
SpaceX’s advances have been covered by mainstream and social media outlets and this publicity is a key part of how they are able to get people excited about exploration beyond our planet. A range of print and online domestic, international, and trade-specific publications cover nearly every launch. Fans, including even the Mayor of Los Angeles, tweet exuberant photos and share videos of space events. Local, national and international television news outlets also broadcast stories.
Space Travel Milestones
SpaceX shares the same goal of safe, extensive space travel that government agencies like NASA have. However, as a for-profit company, SpaceX has they ultimately need to show that space travel will provide a solid return for investors. They believe this won’t be possible unless the same ship that is launched, returns to earth. They’re making steady progress toward this goal.
As one of the more recent milestones in this effort, the company launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The same rocket returned to the airforce base, the first time that it returned to a place where it started from so that it could be refurbished without extensive expenses to return it to its home base.
The flight was a historic step to making space exploration economically feasible. It was also visually stunning. The launch and landing took place at dusk near Los Angeles, California. It lit up the night sky, providing beautiful views for miles and igniting viral, awe-struck posts on social media. Some described the launch as bringing a space nebula to earth.
SpaceX Dragon: A Cool New Type Of Spacecraft
To meet the goals of the new space race, companies including SpaceX are seeking to develop a new kind of spacecraft. They are seeking something that is roomier, more comfortable and meets the needs of a necessary component of the for-profit company: wealthier space tourists.
This kind of spacecraft would be a welcomed departure from how crews throughout the world have traditionally flown. Historically, spaceships have been small and cramped, so much so that selected astronauts needed to be within a specified height range. Previous space crafts, even the space shuttle, had consoles that were filled with bulky switches and buttons. Interiors were so crowded that sometimes crewmembers couldn’t even see each other to give a thumbs-up or communicate visually in other ways.
SpaceX is working to make a newly designed spacecraft a reality. A prime example of this is a ship they call the Dragon. It was named by founder Elong Musk after the dragon in the Peter, Paul and Mary song and in order to pay homage to accomplishing the impossible. It is specifically designed to safely carry up to seven people or sensitive cargo.
The inside of the capsule is visually appealing with the clean lines and stark black and white colors of 1960’s space travel films. Seats are comfortable and there’s more body room. Clean, flat screens replace bulkier buttons and switches typically found in previous spaceships and the space shuttle. There are also spacesuits that are designed to be used with the Dragon. The look of the suits coordinates with the craft and also resembles costumes from science fiction films.
In addition to bringing a new aesthetic into spacecraft and space travel, this sleeker, new spaceship has also made history. In early 2019, it became the first American private spacecraft to autonomously dock with the International Space Station.
A Renewed Vision For Space Travel
SpaceX’s activities boil down to one important impact: they’re renewing a vision for space travel. Man going to Mars, possibly even colonizing the red planet. Regular travel to the international space station. Everyday humans experiencing space.
Wealthier space tourists are already getting excited. SpaceX announced in 2018 that it plans to take Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa on a trip around the moon on a Falcon rocket. The trip is expected to last five days and Maezawa is paying the fees to bring six to eight artists along for the ride. The company is aiming to take him in 2023.
Can everyday humans actually buckle into a seat to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere? Can we reach Mars and identify how to live there? SpaceX is showing how all of it is possible. As space fans around the world track the company’s progress, they’re responding. The repeated launches are breeding excitement, hope, and a view towards the future.