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Space Tourism, Commercial Space Flights – What’s in It for All of Us?
August 7, 2020 News


Over the past 40 years, the emergence of private entities seeking to explore space and send people beyond Earth’s atmosphere has become more and more widespread. There are spaceflight companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic who have already achieved various milestones on rocket launching, space tourism and even plans on sending people into distant space.

For Pamela Melroy, former NASA space shuttle commander and now director of Space Technology and Policy at Nova Systems, such space exploration could happen within our lifetime because of the joint efforts of governments and commercial space flights.

“We will be seeing six or more on the Moon within the decade and perhaps the same on Mars by the early 2030s. We still don’t have efficient transportation to quickly get to these remote places. It would cost a lot to build a spaceship that could carry a lot of people for a long time, so I think that is a few decades further away” said Melroy in an interview with DTA.

However, commercial space flight still faces challenges to further improve its development. In our interview, Melroy cited such difficulties including the legal and policy framework, especially internationally, which is very oriented toward nation-state activity in space. “As a result, there are a lot of questions about what commercial companies are allowed to do (space flights), which can leave companies in limbo. Many countries are scrambling to put into place permissions and oversight” Melroy added.

When asked about the differences in the challenges between space flights conducted by private entities and governments, Melroy stated that commercial entities are focused on cost over performance. This is one of the reasons why government missions are also relying on private enterprises to send their astronauts into space, like the recent SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight.

The benefits that the commercial space flights could provide are also astronomical, with the new inventions and technologies emerging in space that can also be used here on Earth in the future. Some of which include remote sensing of the Earth and Internet of Things from space, having real-time knowledge and connectivity globally and commercial space stations manufacturing optical fibres and materials that can be of a much higher quality than is possible to manufacture on earth.

In her presentation titled “The Future of Commercial Space Flight” on the EmTech Asia 2020, Melroy also talked about the new technologies that are moving the commercial space flight forward. These consist of:

  • Reusability: Space shuttles used to send objects or people into space can be reused within a one-month timeframe and the next stage will be commercial space flights like airline flights, enabling travel from Singapore to New York in just 45 minutes.
  • Space Robotics: Robotics can help in manoeuvring, fixing and even creating satellites in space.
  • Space Stations: Commercial elements can now be attached in the International Space Station and in the future, port-like space stations that can refuel and repair space ships.

In our interview, Melroy shared her visions on space tourism and commercial space flights during her days at NASA. “Explorers are there to blaze the trail for others to follow. I think it will have a very positive impact on society to have more people see our beautiful Earth and how connected we all are, from space”.