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Ever wanted to head off into space? Well, in just four years, that might be possible. While the cost might be more than your bus to work, starting at around $55m, but it’s sure to be a worthwhile cost for those with that kind of cash lying around. The first-ever commercial space station is en route, and it will be here by 2022 if everything goes to plan.

Since humanity set off from this planet in search of what lies beyond, we’ve always dreamt of making it an affordable, normal thing to do. While the price nowhere near constitutes affordable to our dear readers, the rich and the famous will get to enjoy commercial space station tourism in the next few years.

At the rate at which this kind of technology develops, though, prices might become more reasonable in the decades to come. At the moment, though, this is among the most interesting and exciting discoveries made in some time.

What Does $55m Get You?

For one, you’ll get a whopping trip to space all thanks to the work of Axiom Space. They are the space tourism gurus behind the project, and will be the major name that you see associated with it as time goes on. They are going to create what is a combination of a hospitality package and a research facility in one venue.

The aim is to try and hold as many as eight passengers on it at any one time. It will be the first ever operational commercial space station made by man, and the aim is to have it opened by 2022. While targets like this often are often quite fluid, we expect that it won’t be too far off completion if it’s going to come to fruition by 2022.

Apparently, you’ll be using one of the famous SpaceX rockets to get up to the space station when you take off. You’ll also go through on-the-ground training, at a cost of around $1m, to help make sure you are ready and capable to handle the rigors of being out in space.

Also, the aim is to have a long-term discount attached – of around $5m – to those first flights in a bid to attract consumers. Under the tutelage of Philippe Starck, this project is seen as one of the most ambitious and exciting of modern times.

While it might take some time until it’s ready for public consumption, It’s easily among the most interesting commercial developments for the space industry in a long time. For those who always dreamt of flying up into space and spending some time off this planet, we just took a small – albeit very expensive – step towards one day making that possible.

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For many people of a certain age, the aim to reach space as a citizen has been a long-held dream. Well, for those who have grown up with that dream might just be able to achieve that dream: presuming you’ve got the best part of $10 million in the bank.

Thanks to the new Aurora Station concept, developed by Orion Span, a humanity-first ‘space hotel’ is in development. With an upfront deposit of $80,000, and $9.5m all-in, you could take your chance to head up into space. Floating around in zero-gravity goodness, you’d get to enjoy a truly special view of the world.

Indeed, you’d get the chance to grow food to take home as part of your journey. You’d also get to see an amazing feat; as many as 16 sunrises and sunsets in a 24-hour cycle. Announced during a space summit held in California, this idea has quickly moved from the ideas room to being a tangible reality.

In fact, it’s hoped that the first trip could be initiated by 2022; a lofty, but seemingly realistic, goal. The company behind this amazing idea, Orion Span are based in Houston and work out of Silicon Valley, too. Being developed in Clear Lake, where there’s ample expertise in the art of spaceflight, this is coming along well indeed.

Of course, tourists would be expected to need to train for the experience. Notice you never see any unfit astronauts? The stress on the body is supposed to be insane. Therefore, it would be necessary for space-flight training to be undertaken by those who want to use this amazing flight method.

While it’s obviously something that has gathered a lot of attention, it’s more than just a publicity stunt. According to Frank Bunger, Orion Span CEO, there’s plenty of believe in here.

“Houston is by far the best place in the world for human spaceflight and human spaceflight development. We want to make space accessible to regular individuals on average incomes,” he said.

This is a very interesting experience, with more details sure to come out in the short-term. At the moment, we know that any guests who sign up would need to undergo a three-month certification program. Completed online and offline this will take part in a Houston training facility yet to be built.

At 43.5 feet long, the hotel would be ready to go more or less right away. The hope is that by 202 we’ll have the first guests floating above, watching the world below them as they enjoy meals, trips and a life-changing experience.

While the price means that many people who grew up with the dream of space travel would find it out of their reach, it’s still a very exciting development in our long-running relationship with space.

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Commercial spaceflight is nothing new. Elon Musk and Richard Branson have been working to make this a reality for many years now. What makes Energia’s plans different is that the trip has a fixed destination – the International Space Station.

The commercialized ISS space tourism offers up to 6 people a comfortable flight to the ISS, a move that, when realized, will create an interesting market.

The company is building NEM-2, a new module that is solely focused on transporting 4 to 6 tourists to the ISS. Each tourist will have their own cabins and will share more than one toilet among themselves.

The NEM-2 is said to have Internet access to allow passengers to livestream their flight on social media.

Factors that make the dream impossible

  • High cost

A ticket to visit ISS will set back tourists around $100 million USD (much more than the $20 million the original ISS space tourist Dennis Tito had paid), which will cover costs of preparing accommodations and launching a rocket. People should not expect anything overly luxurious. However, individual cabins are said to be comfortable.

Only a select few will be able to pay for this. A lot of wealthier individuals will gladly pay this amount for this once-in-a-lifetime experience but it won’t be as simple as flying on an airplane.

To the rest of the world, the ISS space tourism will be nothing more than an elusive dream.

  • Spacewalk training

Astronauts have to train to walk in space. This means passengers of the commercial spaceflight are likely to need the same training, even if Energia has to yet to officially confirm this part of the flight.

  • Actual interest

Like commercial spaceflights of the past, Energia’s plans will definitely generate a buzz. The attention it will create is sure to pique people’s interest. There is a question of how far the interest will go, however. Is it going to be just an interest in the idea or the project itself? Will it be interesting enough to prompt people to book a flight?

Not another idea from the moon

Energia played a role in sending Yuri Gagarin into space, enabling it to build a solid reputation in the industry. This means the company is definitely capable of seeing the project through and succeeding.

With the support of Boeing, a company that has made it clear some time ago their interests and intentions in space-related ventures, Energia shows real promise.

Of course, there are limitations that need to be tackled. Safety, for example, remains a major concern. Building the NEM-2 is nothing like building an airplane, after all. So how can the company design the spacecraft in a way that the tourists remain safe when flying to ISS and back?

If and when Energia manages to pull the project off, the commercial spaceflight will be available for tourists by 2019.

With little time between now and then, people who are interested to join the flight should start to save their pennies (gold bouillon) for the cost of a spaceflight ticket.

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The much anticipated inaugural launch of the first Falcon Heavy, from rocket builder startup SpaceX, is today and many people are excited of its outcome. The time of launch is at 1:30PM EST from Launch Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral.

The weather is looking good so far and forecasters have predicted favorable conditions up to 80-percent. SpaceX’s renowned founder Elon Musk has told the media at a prelaunch conference last Monday that he is as at peace because he knows they’ve done everything they could to make the launch successful.

He said, ‘I am sure we have done everything we could do to maximize the chances of success for this mission. Once you have done everything you can think of, if it still goes wrong, there is not much more you could have done.”

So even if the mission fails, SpaceX will still be able to gather a lot of relevant data that they can use for future missions.

On that note, the Hawthorne-based rocket builder is also seeking a new funding of $5 million from the state fund of Texas. The fund will be used to build a commercial spaceport in Brownsville, Texas so that the company can expand its launch facility in Boca Chica beach, located outside of Brownsville.

Founded by the genius entrepreneur Elon Musk, the company is aiming to offer space travel to the mainstream by lessening the cost and facilitating human habitation of Mars, when everything is in place. A design center for Elon Musk’s other record breaking company, Tesla Inc. also operates in Hawthorne. He has predicted that they can launch rockets by the end of 2016 and will be able to invest around $100 million at the site, provided their missions are successful. However, his prediction fell short and their self-ultimatum was moved to the end of 2018 at the least.

Although $15.3 million has already been set aside as state funding, less than $3 million has been spent so far and the company has even returned a small portion of the pledged funds. This is because SpaceX was not able to meet its hiring goals due to the project’s delay in keeping up with its intended timetable.

County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. has said that at the request of SpaceX, the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. applied for the $5 million state fund in behalf of the company. A state economic development fund, the Spaceport Trust Fund will be the source of new money for the said project of SpaceX.

The application is currently in review by Gov. Greg Abbott’s economic development and tourism division. Once approved, we hope that the company will not further suffer delays especially if the Falcon Heavy launch will succeed today.

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ESA Vega-E Space Launcher

With a launcher and a reusable spaceplane under development, more people will be sent to space for space tourism in the near future.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has poured in 89.7 million euros ($106.7 million) to jumpstart the development of a new launcher and spaceplane. The former will be a newly advanced iteration of the Vega launcher that will be called Vega E (Vega Evolution), while the latter is a spaceplane demonstrator that will succeed the one that flew in 2015.

The Vega E and Space Rider contracts, according to manufacturer Avio, are both the first tranche for their overall development.

Both Avio and Thales Alenia Space Italy of Italy’s space industry will lead consortiums for both space-designed transportation.

The 89.7 million euros is split between Vega E and Space Rider at 53 million euros and 36.7 million euros, respectively.

What You Need to Know about the Vega Evolution 

It will be developed along with Vega C, a rocket that is slated to fly its first maiden launch in 2019.

Building both rockets concurrently and simultaneously is made possible with the fact that the Vega E is largely based on the same building blocks that were used on Vega. The only difference is that there are four stages instead of just three.

The upper stage of the Vega E will also be “Europeanized” instead of Ukrainian.

An ESA official said during a briefing with reporters that the reason for bifurcation is due to the agency’s inability to meet both short term and long term goals of just one rocket.

As a solution, the agency decided to increase the amount of payload that the Vega can carry into orbit. This is according to the ESA’s Space Transportation Development programs manager for the Vega and Space Rider Giorgio Tumino.

The current iteration of Vega is 800 kilograms less than the lift capacity to low Earth orbit of Vega C which is at 2,300 kilograms.

The Vega today also uses the Ukraine-supplied Attitude and Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) that, Tumino said, will be “Europeanized” as part of ESA’s objective. But because developing the upper stage engine can take up to four years, the Vega will continue to use AVUM until the agency can “Europeanize what is not European”.

With the new Vega E, AVUM and Zefiro-9 third stage will be replaced with something more environmentally friendly. The fuel will be based on liquid oxygen and methane and not UDMH (bipropellant with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine), while the oxidant will be NTO (nitrogen tetroxide).

With the ability to reignite more often, the new upper stage will also make it possible to perform more orbital maneuvers.

What You Need to Know about the Space Rider

In a statement, Donato Amoroso, CEO of Thales Alenia Space Italy, said that Space Rider will pave the way to many challenging applications, “including reusable stages, point-to-point flights, spaceplanes and even space tourism.”

The spaceplane will use the technology found from ESA’s Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV) and will be able to lift 800 kilograms to LEO for missions that will run for up to a couple of months.

One remarkable difference with the new vehicle is that it is designed to land on the ground.

Thales Alenia Space has been tasked to build the reentry module of the Space Rider based on the IXV.

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STS-135 was the last mission of the American Space Shuttle program. Its launch on July 8, 2011 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida marked the beginning of the end of 30 years of the US manned space flight program. Since then, astronauts have been riding Russian rockets for International Space Station (ISS) trips.

In 2014, the Commercial Crew Development program of NASA raised the possibility of sending back astronauts to the ISS on an American spacecraft once again. The program rewarded contracts to both SpaceX and Boeing to build a craft that could do as such.

Both SpaceX and Boeing set a target date of 2017, but development proved to be more difficult than expected. As such, launch was pushed back to 2018.

SpaceX, headed by Elon Musk, has been launching cargo spacecrafts to transport supplies to the ISS. But the addition of people proved “way more difficult” and that the company needs to get things right.

Despite setbacks, both companies are on track to meet the latest projected 2018 launch. And with that date rapidly approaching, Musk finally unveiled what astronauts would be wearing aboard the Crew Dragon, SpaceX’s craft, on his Instagram in August.

The SpaceX Suit

The first image Musk shared on social media showed an astronaut wearing the suit, with the helmet and the shoulder area visible. SpaceX opted for the traditional white for its spacesuit but this time, with a sleeker look.

Musk didn’t share much about the suit on his Instagram and promised more in the coming days. He, however, did share an important detail: the suit works.

Musk said the suit has “already tested to double vacuum pressure.” The suits will be worn by astronauts during the flight to the ISS. Since they are pressure suits, they aren’t meant for spacewalks. The suit is meant to keep passengers alive until they can get to safety in case the capsule depressurizes.

A few days after he shared to SpaceX suit, Musk unveiled a second one, this time a full-body shot next to the Crew Dragon. More details about the suit can be seen, including the design of the gloves and the boots. The pants feature flex zones, which provides mobility when bending while the back portion looks to be padded to provide comfort while seated. The boots also look optimized for mobility.

Apart from the photo shared through Instagram, Musk hasn’t shared much about the spacesuits astronauts will be wearing.

“Race” with Boeing

Boeing is also developing its own spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to the ISS. The CST-100 Starliner is also on course for a 2018 launch, an unmanned flight in June and a crewed flight in August.

The company already unveiled the spacesuits astronauts will be wearing on board their craft in January. They opted for blue and with the suit bearing features such as touchscreen-friendly gloves. The suit is also designed to be worn from the back, rather than being put on like traditional clothes.

Musk hasn’t revealed intricate details about the suits for Crew Dragon astronauts but it is expected to have similar or even better ease-of-use features.

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Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon and he has plans for humans to inhabit the Red Planet. Many believe that humans need to look beyond Earth to survive, and Mars is looked upon as the habitat of choice. But what does Aldrin think about the space tourism plans of rich people such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos?

Aldrin on Space Tourism

Aldrin believes that human commercial activities in low-earth orbit, that area where navigation and military satellites are located as is the International Space Station, will be very important. The cost of activities in LEO will be lower than the journey to Mars, but the investment will be significant to Mars missions.

Multihyphenate Elon Musk set up SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, in 2002 to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars. Both the Falcon and Dragon line deliver payloads into earth orbit.

Musk announced in February of this year that his company has been contacted by two space tourists who made a significant deposit to go to the moon. SpaceX announced that the tourists will have to begin training and undergo fitness tests to make them flight ready by 2018.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos also created a company called Blue Origin that will deal with space transport, with plans for a cargo-delivery service to the Moon.

Aldrin clearly appreciates the efforts of both men but he’s much more looking forward to the possibility of humans living on Mars.

Aldrin on Mars

Aldrin is clearly passionate about establishing a human settlement in Mars so much so that he has actually created a plan for it called Cycling Pathways.

The Earth and Mars align every 26 months and travel to Mars should be done during that period. Humans will be transported to the Red Planet on one or two Earth-Mars “Cyclers” with a single launch. Aldrin believes that this model will cost less than the plans outlined by NASA.

Aldrin isn’t much in favor of a one-off mission, but one that continuously cycles between Earth and the Moon, then Earth and Mars. Doing this allows the constant movement of not just people but also equipment and supplies.

Apart from outlining a plan to get to Mars, Aldrin is also raising money through his non-profit ShareSpace Foundation for the education and development of next-generation space innovators who will help secure the habitation of Mars.

Aldrin hopes to get humans on the Red Planet by 2039. The year is significant as it will mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and Aldrin believes that US President Donald Trump should announce a commitment to ensure that it actually happens. Trump signed a NASA funding bill that supports the exploration of Mars in April that set a target date for a manned mission by 2033.

Historical accounts will always recognize Aldrin’s involvement in the lunar landings, but he wants to be remembered as “the man who led the world to Mars.”

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Space tourism might have been a mere idea, decades ago, but when American business tycoon, Dennis Tito spent eight days in space in 2001 after paying $20 million, the possibility of ordinary people going to outer space might become a reality soon. In fact, known balloon company, Zero 2 Infinity, has already created a partnership with Sock’M, a Spanish company that manufactures socks.

What makes this partnership out-of-the-ordinary is the reason behind such as collaboration. These two companies might belong to two different industries but they have one goal: to come up with “space socks” to be worn by tourists while on high-altitude balloon flights in near-space.

Space Socks

The special socks will be designed specifically for people who get the chance to explore near-space under the Barcelona-based company’s program known as Bloon. This will offer commercial high-altitude balloon trips to passengers who want to experience this kind of adventure, high up in the air while wearing comfortable and safe socks.

These socks will be made of non-flammable materials to minimize the possibility of the balloon catching fire. Aside from the fabric, these products will also be capable of keeping the feet warm with its thickness.

When in space, there is no gravity at all and without protection, blood on the feet will rush to the head and blood pressure will drop. The thickness of the socks will give ample heat and keep them warm.

Representatives of the sock company said that synthetic fibers, used in other socks, are not ideal for space since these can cause electrostatic sparks. They also added that treating the socks with silver coating or antimicrobial treatment is necessary.

Meanwhile, those who want to own these specially designed socks but do not have plans of going on high-altitude balloon flights can also have the chance to enjoy the feel of these comfortable products. Sock’M will also be offering “Space Socks” to consumers but with cotton material.

In a statement made by representatives of Sock’M, they said that materials used for space socks need to be natural to enhance moisture absorption and should be stretchable. These include natural materials, such as wool, linen or cotton.

Balloon-assisted Launcher Test Flight

As of today, commercial high-altitude balloon trips for passengers are not yet available but Zero 2 Infinity has been very busy to make this a reality for the near future. The company was able to conduct a test flight when it deployed a small satellite launcher using a balloon, a project they it has been developing for four years.

The stratospheric balloon was able to carry the launcher up to around 15 miles, during a test done in March 2017. For its future plans, the company is looking forward to offering space tourism by way of helium balloon flights that have an altitude of up to 22 miles, with passengers onboard.

Meanwhile, Raul Espada, CEO of Sock’M mentioned their company’s intention to change the notion of space tourism only being for people who have lots of expendable cash.

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