Lesson Date : 2019-01-07
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The Mojave Air and Space Port is in California, in the U.S. On December 13, an unusual looking large double-cabin aircraft took off from the spaceport’s desert runway. Called WhiteKnightTwo, it was carrying a smaller passenger spaceplane called VSS Unity.
High in the air, the spaceplane detached from the larger aircraft. It then 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, after which the engine cut out, or switched off.
Two test pilots flew the spaceplane. A dummy passenger accompanied them. NASA, the American space agency, and the American air force give people a badge if they travel higher than 80 kilometers above the Earth's surface. The badge is called “astronaut's wings”. After “earning” their badge, the VSS Unity's pilots guided the spaceplane back to the spaceport.
The Virgin Galactic Company designed and built WhiteKnightTwo and the VSS Unity (VSS stands for Virgin Space Ship). Sir Richard Branson founded the company 14 years ago. He is a wealthy businessman from Britain. Virgin Galactic is often described as a “space tourism” company. Sir Richard's plan is to take tourists into space. However, in recent years, the company has experienced several difficulties and delays. The spaceplane's design has had to be altered. Four years ago, a previous spaceplane crashed on a test flight. One pilot died. The other was badly injured. He managed to get out of the plan and open his parachute.
Virgin Galactic spaceplanes have completed several test flights during the last two years. They are designed to carry six passengers. The latest test was the first flight to reach a height of 80 kilometers. Soon afterwards, Sir Richard announced that he hoped to start space tourism flights in 2019. When these trips begin, the spaceplanes will fly to a height of 110 kilometers. Here, passengers will be above what's known as the Kármán line.
The Kármán line is named after Theodore von Kármán (1881 – 1963). He was a Hungarian-born American scientist. As the distance above the Earth's surface gets greater, the atmosphere or air becomes thinner and thinner. Kármán was the first person to work out the height at which the air is too thin to support a jet aircraft. Kármán's calculations produced a height of 83.6 kilometers. He proposed that the “edge of space” should be 100 kilometers as this figure was easy to remember. Nowadays, many international organizations use the Kármán line as the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and space.
When above the Kármán line, passengers on board the Virgin Galactic’s spaceplanes will be able to float in zero gravity. This period of weightlessness will last for about five minutes. Then, the spaceplane will begin its descent. At this height, passengers will be able to see the curvature of the Earth and the dark color of outer space. The trip, from take off to landing, will last for one and a half hours.
Blue Origin and SpaceX are other American companies that are planning to take tourists into space. Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin 18 years ago. He is the boss of the Amazon Company. Mr. Bezos is one the world's richest people. Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002. He is a well-known American businessman. Mr. Musk also owns Tesla, a company that makes electric cars and trucks.
Blue Origin has developed a rocket called New Shepard. The company named it after Alan Shepard (1923 – 1998). In 1961, he became the first American to travel in space. The New Shepard rocket will take a space capsule above the Kármán line. There, the rocket and capsule will separate. The rocket lands back on the Earth, so it can be re-used. The capsule has room for six passengers. During a test flight five months ago, the passenger capsule reached a height of 119 kilometers. Blue Origin is expected to start its passenger flights next year.
SpaceX has already developed several powerful rockets. It has a contract with NASA to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX plans to take paying passengers on a trip around the far side of the Moon. These flights are not expected to take place until 2023. Virgin Galactic claims that 600 people have already booked a seat on its spaceplanes. A single ticket costs $250,000. Blue Origin is yet to announce its fares or if it has any bookings. SpaceX's pricing plans have not been decided. However, the company has announced that Yusaku Maezawa would be its first passenger. He is a billionaire from Japan.
ISSUES : Should businessmen invest in space tourism?
Period : 2019-01-07 ~ 2019-02-07
Manager's Pro OpinionYes, businessmen should invest in space tourism. They will be able to develop the industry and create less expensive commercialized space travel. The cost of reaching space is likely to go down. This will also boost people’s interest in space research and space exploration. Space research will not only depend on government organizations. As well as space tourism, the cost of launching satellites, spacecraft and space exploration missions will be reduced greatly. Therefore, investing in space tourism will be profitable.
Manager's Con OpinionNo, businessmen should not invest in space tourism. Space tourism costs a lot of money. Yet, the market is small. Not many people will be interested in traveling the space. There will always be concerns about safety, costs, and health. Many are still unsure about the safety of traveling in space. In addition, space tourism may have a negative impact on the environment. If there is an accident, people who invest in space tourism are likely to lose a lot of money.
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