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Bezos, Branson are not the first space tourists – Riverside, California

Riverside, California 2021-07-19 11:28:41 –

Experts say that flights by Branson and Bezos herald a new era of space travel, but millionaires are not the first space travelers.

The space race of millionaires is intensifying. On July 11, entrepreneur Richard Branson flew into space on his Virgin Galactic spaceplane.Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Scheduled to fly into space on July 20 On board a ship developed by his company Blue Origin.

Some experts say that the launch by Branson and the expected launch by Bezos are the beginning of a new era of space travel. Many call flights “historical.” But what is the history of space travel? The VERIFY team delved into it.

Question

Are Branson, Bezos and their crew the first space travelers in world history?

Source of information

  • Dr. Roger Launius, Space historian and author
  • Dr. Eric Seedhouse, Associate Professor, teaches space flight operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Marco Caceres, Senior Space Analyst, Teal Group
  • Greg Autory, Arizona State University Thunderbird School of Global Management, Clinical Professor of Space Leadership, Policy and Business

answer

No, Branson, Bezos and his crew are the first in US history, but not the first space travelers in world history.

What we found

According to our experts, the history of “civilians” in space dates back to the 1980s. It was then that NASA developed a program to train and send non-carrier astronauts into space. But they were not tourists. Each had a mission.

In 1985, Senator Jake Garn took part in space flight, and a few months later, Senator Bill Nelson joined. Both flew for political purposes, experts said.

Then, in 1986, teacher Christa McAuliffe joined the Challenger crew.

“She was to fly on that particular mission to perform a particular task that was to teach the children,” said space historian Dr. Roger Launius. “And the idea behind this would be great if we could inspire the next generation.”

NASA suspended the program after the Challenger exploded in flight and the crew died.

Space travel did not take off until 15 years later. In 2001, billionaire Dennis Tito paid the reported $ 20 million to board a Russian spacecraft to the International Space Station.

“It wasn’t for anything other than tourism,” said Dr. Launius.

Since then, according to our experts, about seven space travelers have paid millions of dollars for seats on the Russian Space Shuttle.

But that never happened in the United States, so Richard Branson and his crew became the first space travelers in American history.

There is one issue, but did Branson actually arrive in space?

“It will always be controversial,” said Dr. Eric Seedhouse. “There are two definitions of space.”

Branson’s Virgin Galactic flight is reported to have reached 54 miles from Earth, just above the 50-mile threshold used by the FAA and NASA to mark the beginning of space. However, the International Aviation Federation (FAI), an international organization that regulates space and holds official records, has set the beginning of space at 100 km, about 62 miles. Known as the Carman line.

On July 20, Jeff Bezos will climb 66 miles on the Blue Origin rocket New Shepard and cross the Karman line.

“If you go below 62 miles and still call it a space, you’ll always see an asterisk next to these flights,” said Dr. Seedhouse.

In any case, experts say these private companies are changing the game of space travel.

“This is about normalizing space flight,” said Marco Caseres, senior space analyst at Tyr Group.

“Since the dawn of the Space Age, governments have dominated, so less robust industries will grow rapidly, and governments tend to be much more cautious,” said Caceres.

But space travel is still reserved for people with deep pockets.

SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk and focused on the colonization of Mars, is charging $ 55 million each to fly the group to the International Space Station next year. Blue Origin auctioned its first ticket for $ 28 million. A one-hour trip on the Virgin Galactic spaceplane costs a bit cheaper ($ 250,000), but it should go down as more ships are added.

“Prices are not cost-based,” said Greg Autry, a clinical professor of space leadership, policy, and business at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management. “All signs show that prices go up before they go down … When market demand falls below supply, prices go down.”

Autory estimates that tickets for ballistic flights, such as those manufactured by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, will cost around $ 50,000 over five years. Within 10 years, those tickets could drop to thousands of dollars, he says.

Other articles on VERIFY: No, the US Senate isn’t trying to give Blue Origin a “bailout”

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