Space tourism

Lesson Date : 2019-01-07
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On December 13, an unusual double-cabin aircraft took off from California's Mojave Desert, in the U.S. Called WhiteKnightTwo, it carried a smaller spaceplane called VSS Unity.

High in the air, the spaceplane separated from the larger aircraft. It traveled upwards at a speed of 4,000 kilometers per hour for about 60 seconds. This is 2.9 times the speed of sound. The spaceplane reached a height of 82.7 kilometers. It was a test flight. The two pilots then guided the spaceplane back to the ground.

The Virgin Galactic Company designed and built WhiteKnightTwo and the VSS Unity (VSS stands for Virgen spaceplane). Sir Richard Branson founded the company 14 years ago. He wanted to take tourists into space. The company has had several difficulties and delays. Four years ago, one of its spaceplanes crashed on a test flight. One the pilots died and the other was badly injured.

Virgin Galactic spaceplanes have completed several successful test flights during the last two years. The latest test was the first to reach a height of 80 kilometers. Sir Richard now says that he hopes to start space tourism flights in 2019. These flights will go to a height of 110 kilometers, or above the Kármán line.

The Kármán line is the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and space. It was named after Theodore von Kármán (1881 – 1963). He calculated that at a height of 83.6 kilometers the air becomes too thin to support a jet aircraft.

Above the Kármán line, the Virgin Galactic's spaceplane's passengers will be able to float in zero gravity for about five minutes. The passengers will also be able see the curvature of the Earth and the dark color of outer space. The trip, from take off to landing, will last for about one and half hours.

Two other companies also have plans to take tourist into space. They are called Blue Origin and SpaceX. Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon Company, founded Blue Origin 18 years ago. Elon Musk set up SpaceX in 2002. He also started the Tesla Company, which makes electric cars and trucks.

Blue Origin’s latest test flight was five months ago. Its rocket will take a passenger capsule to a height of 119 kilometers. The company is expected to start its passenger flights next year. SpaceX plans to take passengers on a trip around the far side of the Moon. These flights may not be ready until 2023.

Virgin Galactic says that 600 people have already booked seats on its spaceplanes. The cost for a ticket is $250,000. Blue Origin and SpaceX have not announced their prices. Yet, SpaceX said that a Japanese billionaire would be its first passenger.

DEBATE

ISSUES : Will space tourism be safe?

Period : 2019-01-07 ~ 2019-02-07
80%
20%
Manager's Pro Opinion
Yes, space tourism will be safe. Space technology is continuously developing. Many astronauts have safely traveled to space. Much of space tourism is likely to be a short period of weightlessness. These trips will not last very long. They will not have any effects on a person's health. As space scientists have learned more, human spaceflight has become safer. Space tourism companies will ensure the safety of all their passengers.
Manager's Con Opinion
No, space tourism will never be safe. Going into space is not an easy task. Spaceflight requires proper training and for people to be fit and healthy. Space journeys will always be risky. They are very different from traveling on airplanes. A huge amount of energy is needed to get beyond the pull of the Earth's gravity. Accidents can happen during the launch. Also, most humans are not used to the space environment. Space tourism is therefore likely to be a very hazardous activity.
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