Tech Talk: Technology Soars To New Heights
Technology has officially reached new heights that are out of this world—literally. In two years’ time—sometime between late 2021 and early 2022—Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) plans to launch four privately-paying guests into space in its Crew Dragon capsule. SpaceX has been developing the capsule, which is intentionally designed for leisure, for NASA to use to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, a capability the U.S. was previously lacking. The five-day mission will take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The mission is a free-flyer mission, because the capsule will not attempt to dock with the space station but will orbit around Earth before returning. It will take off using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with the goal of reaching two to three times the altitude of the International Space Station, which orbits at a distance of 250 miles up. Training for the mission is projected to take a few weeks, and guests will be located through Space Adventures, a Vienna, Virginia-based space tourism company that offers zero-gravity atmospheric flights, orbital spaceflights and other space-related experiences, from spacewalks and launch tours to cosmonaut training. Space Adventures has previously flown seven private citizens to and from the International Space Station using Russia’s Soyuz rocket and spacecrafts, including Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque Du Soleil, who was the last to make the trip in 2009.
This mission, which Space Adventures says will permit four people to “see planet Earth the way no one has since the Gemini program,” according to CNBC, comes with a hefty price tag. Although financial terms have not yet been disclosed, SpaceX originally worked with Bigelow Airspace to fly guests to the International Space Station for $52 million per person, but Bigelow has since revoked the deal.
SpaceX’s mission comes with additional changes being implemented by NASA. NASA has officially opened up its International Space Station for private missions, involving taking guests into space for up to 30 days at a fee of more than $50 million per trip. According to CNBC, each night’s stay in space costs private astronauts $35,000, making it one of the more expensive per night travel accommodations to date—but it still doesn’t trump some of the luxury accommodations on Earth. The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas charges far more per night for its 8,500-square-foot Empathy Suite—$100,000 per night—and New York’s The Mark charges $75,000 per night for its penthouse.
Although a costly endeavor, bringing patrons into space for travel represents a new, emerging marketplace that may grow more accessible with time. SpaceX’s efforts represent only the very early stages in modern space travel that accommodate not only non-astronauts, but people who are unrelated to the aerospace industry whatsoever. With developments into this market and experience remaining ongoing, it may not be farfetched for promotional products distributors, in a few years’ time, to find themselves working on client projects related to space travel.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.