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Why this Matters: This publicity stunt is meant to suggest that the goal of space tourism — to bring ordinary citizens to outer space — is nearer than we think. Last week, another private company, Axiom Space, announced its crew for the company’s first mission to the International Space Station, which will take off in 2022. Each seat on this mission cost $55 million, in keeping with previous space flights, which is too expensive for the average consumer. But, the fact that private space flights are beginning suggests that space travel will become commercialized, and thus attainable to civilians who can afford the ticket.
A New Space Race
The Inspiration4 mission paints a picture of the contemporary space race, which is being enacted by private companies rather than governments. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Axiom, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX are competing to reach milestones in space travel: Axiom will be the first private company that takes civilians to the International Space Station, while Blue Origin (owned by Jeff Bezos) announced that it will put the first woman on the moon.
It remains unclear whether space tourism will be a viable business or how the privatization of space travel will affect our relationship with the cosmos. The winners of the Inspiration4 raffle will be announced in about a month and will be fitted for spacesuits and begin training.
Jared Isaacman, the commander of the Space-X flight, said in a statement: “I appreciate the tremendous responsibility that comes with commanding this mission and I want to use this historic moment to inspire humanity while helping to tackle childhood cancer here on Earth.”
Pentagon scientists have successfully tested a small solar panel that, when launched into space, can collect solar power and beam it to any place on earth. The special panel is called a Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module (PRAM) and was launched last May attached to a drone that circles the earth once every 90 minutes. If scaled up, scientists say that these orbital solar panels could work 24/7 and collect more sunlight than those on earth, and provide power to remote areas of the globe and major power grids alike.
To many companies, space is the new “Wild West,” a “final frontier” of resources to be exploited for profit. To avoid a “land rush” in space, nations and space companies will need to agree on what they can claim to own or even begin to extract from outer space before their competitors beat them to it.
Why this Matters: Tesla and Amazon are working to make space travel and resource extraction for private citizens and companies possible.
This week presents a rare astronomical event: the northern lights will be visible to a large swathe of the United States. According to the latest forecast from the Space Weather Prediction Center, the Aurora Borealis can be spotted from the Pacific Northwest to New England and as far south as northern Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania.
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