Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos: the race for space tourism

(CNN Español) — The race for space tourism has begun.

First, the British businessman and billionaire Richard Branson soared through the skies in a space plane supersonic developed by his company, Virgin Galactic, and a few days later, Jeff Bezos boarded the New Shepard ship for a first pleasure trip that took him into space and back with his company Blue Origin.

And in a matter of days, SpaceX will perform its own launch into space. But in addition to SpaceX founder Elon Musk having no intention of being part of the crew of the Inspiration4 mission, it will go far beyond suborbital space on a three-day trip fully manned by civilians.

Source: Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin
Graphic: Tal Yellin and Ian Berry, CNN

When Branson went into space a couple of days before Bezos, the Brit told CNN “I honestly don’t see this as a space race,” despite the proximity between missions. In fact, Virgin Galactic congratulated on Twitter to Blue Origin after its successful flight and indicated that “together we will open [el] room for good “, this after Blue Origin hinted that the flight of Virgin Galactic was not “spatial.”

Meanwhile, on Virgin Galactic launch day, Branson spent the morning with Musk in a show of solidarity between two of the most prominent figures in the commercial space industry.

Here we explain the details of each of the missions to space promoted by this trio of billionaires, who took the first steps to make the next great vacation destination out of this world.

Watch Jeff Bezos and his crew float in space 1:30

Orbital space vs. suborbital space

One of the key differences between the Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Space X missions is that the first two missions were flights to suborbital space, where travelers were briefly exposed to weightlessness and were able to see the sights of space during a flight. at the edge of the atmosphere, approximately 60 miles above Earth.

Both the flights manned by Branson and Bezos were brief, as they flew on and off on the same day.

The Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo took to the skies at 8:30 am local time on July 11 at about 15,240 meters in the air. On board, passengers experienced up to three G’s of force from the burst of extreme acceleration and watched the blue sky fade into the star-speckled darkness of outer space.

At the top of the flight path, more than 80 kilometers high, the vehicle was suspended in weightlessness for a few minutes, allowing passengers to enjoy panoramic views of the Earth and space as the SpaceShipTwo rotated on its belly. The Virgin Galactic flight reached a maximum altitude of 86 kilometers above Earth.

For its part, on July 20 Jeff Bezos along with 3 other crew members boarded the New Shepard capsule, at the Blue Origin launch site, just before the rocket fired its engines at 8:12 a.m. CT, causing the rocket to exceed the speed of sound and soar to more than 105 kilometers. At the highest point of the flight path, the passengers were weightless for about three minutes and they were allowed to get out of their seat to float and enjoy the panoramic views of the Earth and the cosmos.

Both the Virgin Galactic flight and the Blue Origin flight reached the limit of outer space, according to the United States Government. These suborbital flights require much less power and speed. That means less time is required for the rocket to burn out, lower temperatures burning the exterior of the spacecraft, less force and compression to tear the spacecraft, and generally less chance of something going very wrong.

For its part, SpaceX’s mission – scheduled for September this year – will reach orbital space, a journey that involves high-speed takeoffs that break gravity and longer durations. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft will reach an altitude of 540 kilometers and will orbit Earth every 90 minutes during the journey that will last approximately 3 days.

Orbital rockets need to pack up enough power to reach at least 2,759 km / h (17,000 miles per hour), which is known as orbital velocity, essentially giving a spacecraft enough energy to continue rotating around Earth instead of being immediately dragged down by gravity.

The space tourism race

The crew of each mission

Virgin Galactic: Branson occupied one of the six available seats within the Unity 22 spacecraft in order to evaluate the flight experience to enhance the journey for future customers. The crew was joined by Beth Moses, lead instructor; Colin Bennet, Virgin Galactic Chief Operations Engineer; Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic Vice President of Government Affairs and Investigative Operations; and pilots Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci.

Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson, with Sirisha Bandla on his shoulders, cheers with crew members after flying into space aboard a Virgin Galactic spacecraft, a trip he described as the “experience of a lifetime.” , and which he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism. (Credit: PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images)

Blue Origin: Jeff Bezos and his brother, Mark Bezos, occupied two of the six available seats inside the New Shepard ship. They were joined on the trip 82-year-old Wally Funk, a member of the program “Mercury 13” and who trained to be an astronaut, but did not make it to space; as well as Oliver Daemen a young man of 18 years who became the youngest person to travel to space.

Daemen was Blue Origin’s first paid customer, and his father, an investor, bought his ticket. This young Dutchman took the place of the mysterious bidder who offered the sum of $ 28 million for an 11-minute ride on the edge of space with Jeff Bezos and who had to postpone his trip to space due to “scheduling conflicts”.

Oliver Daemen, Mark Bezos, Jeff Bezos and Wally Funk made the first human space flight of the Blue Origin company. (Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images) (Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Inspiration4: The crew will be made up of billionaire Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, who will donate three of the seats within the Dragon Crew to members who were selected “to represent the pillars of the mission: leadership, hope, generosity and progress.” , according to SpaceX.

Joining the trip is Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a cancer survivor and physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Tennessee. Arceneaux will become the youngest American to visit space and the first person with a prosthesis to travel to space. There is also Dr. Sian Proctor, professor of geosciences and specialist in scientific communication; and Christopher Sembroski, advisor to the Space Camp educational camp and a former US Air Force military man.

Unlike the Branson and Bezos travels, Musk has no intention of joining the Inspiration4 crew.

Chris Sembroski, Hayley Arceneaux, Jared Isaacman and Dr. Sian Proctor prepare for their flight into space scheduled for September 2021. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

Francesca Street and Jackie Wattles contributed to this report.

Article: Soure