SPACE TOURISM (Syllabus GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     17th April 2024        
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Context: Entrepreneur and pilot Gopi Thotakura is set to become the first Indian to venture into space as a tourist on the NS-25 mission of Blue Origin.

Space Tourism

  • About: It is a segment of the aviation industry aimed at providing recreational, leisure, or business travelers the opportunity to experience space travel, as described in 'Air Transport: A Tourism Perspective.'
  • Types: Space tourism can be categorized into two main types: sub-orbital and orbital.

oSub-orbital Space Tourism: It  involves spacecraft that ascend just beyond the Kármán line, approximately 100 kilometers above Earth's surface. Passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness before returning to Earth.

oExample: NS-25 mission by Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft, as with Thotakura's participation.

oOrbital Space Tourism: It entails spacecraft that travel much further than the Kármán line, allowing passengers to spend days or even weeks in space.

oExample: SpaceX's Falcon 9 mission in September 2021, where four passengers spent three days orbiting Earth at an altitude of 160 km.

Challenges in Space Tourism

  • Cost Barrier: Space tourism remains prohibitively expensive, with tickets priced at over a million dollars, making it accessible only to a privileged few.
  • Environmental Impact: Studies indicate that space tourism contributes to environmental damage, primarily through rocket emissions, which release gaseous and solid chemicals into the upper atmosphere.
  • Climate Concerns: Research from institutions like University College London (UCL), the University of Cambridge, and MIT underscores the significant impact of rocket emissions, particularly soot, on atmospheric warming.
  • Safety Risks: Despite stringent safety protocols, the history of space travel includes notable fatalities, with approximately 3% of astronauts losing their lives during space flights, as reported by Astronomy Magazine in November 2023.