As blog writers, when we face the inevitable writer’s block, we are told we need a change of space. When billionaire businessmen run out of new ideas or inventions, they take that phrase a little too literally. Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos all have their space programs that cater to different use cases ranging from satellite launches, International Space Station (ISS) crew swaps, to space tourism. As the space race heats up, and the common man can’t afford tickets to space, what can we look forward to?
While the popular theory is that they want to escape this planet before the doom of Earth unravels, the reality couldn’t be further away from this. While we haven’t yet found a planet that can support life as we know it, we can’t survive in space either. Why?
- Life is hard in space: Astronauts eat dehydrated food packets and then eat fiber pills to poop in a vacuum bowl. Far throw from the 3-5 meals we are used to every day. The water on board is also recycled from bodily fluids – not sure how many of us want to exist on that.
- Daily chores: Astronauts must log everything they do and feel every day. In addition to that, they must perform daily repairs as there are always rocks flying around in space. We are talking about 6-8 hours a day of finding bolt number 397 and turning a spanner outside the ISS with a risk of death.
- Support System: For the handful of people that inhabit the ISS, we have thousands of physicists, engineers, and support staff on the ground working to keep them alive.
In essence, we are spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money to go to space and maintain the space stations where we can’t survive without another couple of billions spent. Why then is space such a huge commodity and billionaires are going all-in on this bet?
- Development of new technology: The pursuit of space missions leads to multiple inventions as scientists are constantly looking for lighter and smaller components that support the flight. A lot of these inventions have made their way into our life, case in point are the tiny cameras on our cellphones that helped consolidate our devices. Even the Nike Air shoes that we buy and wireless headphones technology were created as a part of various space programs
- Space Tourism: When Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin first launched their auction for seats on the rocket, they received almost 7600 bids with the winning bid of $28 million. Even if the common man can’t afford it now, they have enough millionaires and billionaires to cover their costs and net a tidy profit. Over time, prices would drop as these trips become more common and newer technology is created and opens up this adventure to all the average Joes.
- Space Mining: NASA and other space research organizations have confirmed without a doubt that comets and other asteroids contain minerals and metals, some of which may be extremely valuable. If a drilling rig can be set up, we may end up with a cheaper & abundant source for some rare metals. Better yet, we may end up discovering altogether new materials which could advance our understanding of the universe and bring in a lot of money for the finders.
- Origin of Life: Since the advent of time, man has wondered how or why we exist and why specifically on this planet. With cheaper and easier access to space, we are increasing the number and opportunities for testing and experimentation. We don’t know where this will lead but we know for sure it can help us understand how humans, animals, and plants all began on this planet.
- Advance Science: Low gravity and no gravity research has often been an intriguing topic but was limited to the few developed nations that could afford their space programs. Once privatized, everyone would have access to space for a fraction of the cost of a space program. Blue Origin and SpaceX already have preferential pricing for students and research universities to send equipment and paraphernalia to space.
While some of these goals may sound altruistic and others strictly business, the fact is that we stand to gain a lot by allowing these private players to explore and visit space. As long as these billionaires spend their own money, I say why not. At the moment all I am wishing for is better battery technology, so I don’t have to charge my devices all day.
Fount of wisdom, insufferable know it all, make it go away are just some of the phrases used to define Melwyn. When he is not at his Consulting job, he spends his time reading about technology and current affairs.