To the Stars &

To the Stars and Beyond

Have you ever dreamed of flying among the stars? Well, the aviation industry has now turned this dream into a reality! With its new segment of space tourism, the sector is offering space travel for recreational and leisure purposes. Although it is costly, there is always a small slice of consumers who are willing to spend millions to hitch a ride to their once-in-a-lifetime space experience. Space tourism is a recreational space journey. Tourists can become astronauts and travel to space either on government-owned vehicles or private ones after the first space tourist left Earth 20 years ago, more followed, although slowly, to tour the stars. 

On April 28, 2001, a wealthy businessman made history by being the first tourist to space. Dennis Tito paid almost 20 million US dollars to travel to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket. Following this trip, seven tourists made this trip to the ISS in nine years. Later, in 2019, NASA announced its intention to send private astronauts to the ISS. In 2021, space tourism covered yet another milestone as Jeff Bezos, founder and owner of the aerospace company Blue Origin, and two other passengers traveled to space. This was the first time that a private company attempted space tourism. Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk's SpaceX are two other private companies driving this new endeavor to tour space. Although there are many more obstacles and milestones to cross, recent developments have become small successes in the long process of making space travel more accessible to humans. 

There are three different kinds of space tourism - orbital, suborbital, and lunar space tourism. Orbital space flights require the spacecraft to maintain orbital velocity and remain in orbit around the planet. After the first orbital space tour by Tito, orbital space tourism continued to grow. But although this gained a lot of popularity, it was expensive. Thus, the industry looked into more viable propositions.  Suborbital space tourism made space travel commercially viable and provided a foundation for tourists to travel to space for recreation. In contrast to orbital space flights, suborbital space flights require much lower speeds and do not achieve orbit. Instead, they fly up to a certain height and then free-fall back to Earth once the engines shut off. However, the passengers still get to experience weightlessness and enjoy their time in space. 

Lunar space tourism is still in its nascent stages. Some companies have already put forward propositions for such trips to the moon; however, confirmation is still pending. 
What will it take to become a space tourist? Fitness is key. Interested people must stay in reasonable shape. Astronauts will also receive training to get accustomed to microgravity and periods of high acceleration. 

One of the drawbacks of space tourism is its toll on the environment. The spacecraft uses propellants like liquid hydrogen and oxygen, carbon-based fuels, and nitrous oxide. However, burning these fuels generate greenhouse gases and air pollutants. The high temperatures at the time of launch and re-entry also cause environmental problems. They primarily affect the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Chemicals like chlorine, which is released during its flight, also degrade the ozone layer. 

There are concerns that such flights might contribute to the accumulating space junk in the Earth's orbit. Such debris might result in collisions, and therefore it becomes increasingly difficult for satellites to move in the lower orbit. As studies and research progresses, scientists have been searching for cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and safer ways to travel in space. Technology has never let us down, and space tourism might not stay a dream for long.