Passengers: Could commercial space travel soon become a reality?
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in Passengers, about a spacecraft carrying thousands of people to a far-flung part of the solar system to set up home on a different planet to our own. In the film, the shuttle suffers a malfunction and the two leads find themselves awakened 90 years early.
You’d have to hope that real-life space travel would go a bit more smoothly than the one depicted in Passengers. There’s certainly a lot of demand for it, and NASA certainly appears to believe that humans will branch out to other parts of the solar system in the near future. On top of that, a couple of organisations are planning to bring space tourism to the masses. We’ve taken a look at how they plan to achieve this and whether their dreams of launching mankind far into the stars could ever become a reality.
NASA’s “Journey to Mars”
Last year, US space organisation NASA released a plan for establishing permanent settlements on Mars, which set out details about plans to create “deep-space habitation facilities” that would act as stepping stones to the Red Planet. NASA has likened the mission to the frontierism of the early settlers in America and the Apollo Moon landings.
The report reads: “In the next few decades, NASA will take steps toward establishing a human presence beyond Earth. We seek the capacity for people to work, learn, operate and sustainably live beyond Earth for extended periods of time.” Don’t expect a quick stop-over though, and there won’t be a connection flight to break the journey up like when you fly to the other side of the world. “Any journey to Mars will take many months each way and early return is not an option.”
Over the next few decades, the space agency will undertake a series of experiments at the International Space Station, so crews will be able to live in deep space free of health problems caused by the effects of micro-gravity and exposure to radiation.
After that, humans will be sent into Mars’ orbit or one of its moons, before eventually landing on its surface to set up colonies using modular architecture or 3D printing. Cargo ships will be sent with supplies months or years before the first humans land. Watch this, err, space.
Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004 by Sir Richard Branson, with the stated aim of taking ordinary people into space for the first time. Branson initially said he hoped to see a maiden flight take place by the end of 2009, but this has been delayed on a number of occasions, and in 2014 the VSS Enterprise crashed during a test flight, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another.
Although there’s no launch date in place, Virgin Galactic’s new VSS Unity spaceplane recently completed its first 10-minute glide. Anyone is free to apply for a place on board one of the flights when it finally does launch, but be warned, it won’t come cheap: you’ll need to stump up $250,000 (around £200,000) up front to grab a seat on board.
Travellers could be heading to the Moon for their holidays within a decade, if a private firm gets its way. Moon Express specialises in lunar travel, and a recent ruling by the US government has made the company the first private business to get the go ahead to take holidaymakers to the Moon.
Moon Express is planning its first trip to the Moon next year, and aims to send tourists there by 2026. Co-founder Naveen Jain has said tickets for the trip will cost around £8,000, which seems to be far better value than those offered by Virgin Galactic, if you ask us.