[center]“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” -Galileo[/center]
[justify]NASA has retired and no more busy with preparing the orbiter for the complex ballet of operations during the S0007 tasks. Right now, the final frontier of space is only open to a select few. But in the coming decades, you won’t need to be a supersoldier to go into orbit. You’ll just need your wallet. As NASA’s budget gets further cut down as the economy worsens, job cuts have begun to force people away from the agency, including some higher level members, such as Martin Kress, who left his position at NASA as Deputy Director of the Glenn Research Center for National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In his statement that was released by NASA, he noted that “The world is changing rapidly, and I see an opportunity for doing some very innovative things at the National Space Science and Technology Center” Innovation here is a key element, and is something that is difficult within such a large bureaucratic structure such as NASA. Private companies have already proven that they can accomplish much the same tasks as NASA, but at a much lower cost.[/justify]
[justify]Steele argues that the creation of a federal agency devoted to private space enterprise is needed. While NASA maintains a busy schedule of scientific missions and its own launch capabilities, this agency would encourage private space flight interests. This has yet to happen, but there has been considerable development in private space flight, most obviously with SpaceShipOne’s dramatic capture of the Ansari X-Price in October of 2004.[/justify]
[justify]We can see the shift towards commercialization already with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which is considered the first spaceliner. In the four years since Virgin Galactic tickets went on sale to the general public, over two hundred have been sold, at over $100,000 each. The price is likely to drop after that, but this highlights the demand for a space tourism industry. Branson’s company has the right idea, and has signed contracts with Spaceport America, the first commercial spacesport, which is currently under construction. It was recently announced that a sister spaceport, Spaceport Sweden, would also sign contracts with Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
The demand for commercial spaceflight exists beyond tourism of course. Another privately owned company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (Space X), made history last year when it launched the first commercial rocket into orbit, the Falcon 1. Founded by Elon Musk, the creator of PayPal, the company has been working to create a low-cost alternative to deliver payloads to space.[/justify]
[justify]Obama has outlined his new space policy, and has called for the commercial sector to step up and get involved in spaceflight, particularly in low-orbit, satellite, and space launch technologies.[/justify]
[justify]The US satellites and launch vehicles that made NASA famous were old military projects, starting with Explorer I, which predates even the formation of NASA! Although NASA was declared to be a civilian organization, the military involvement has remained huge. Of the 12 people who’ve walked on the Moon, 11 of them are former military. (Jack Schmitt, the last man to set foot on the Moon, was the only civilian.)[/justify]
[center]But times have changed.[/center]
A few years ago, the Ansari X-Prize was awarded to SpaceShipOne, a venture from private industry that launched a human safely up into space. And the era of Commercial Spaceflight had begun.The X-Prize was named after Anoushah Ansari, the first female private space explorer, and the first astronaut of Iranian descent.[center]http://img163.imageshack.us/img163/1741/anoushehansarispace.jpg[/center]
[center]The astronauts are going to be private, too![/center]
[center]That’s right, private astronauts.[/center]
So who are these private astronauts going to be? And what types of missions and duties are they going to perform? Well, if you search for commercial astronaut on google, the first non-Wikipedia site you get is http://www.astronauts4hire.org/
There’s an interview with their President up at NewScientist http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2 … ience.html, which I encourage you to read to get some basic answers to such questions as:
-Are commercial space flights really such a big deal for science? -Being an astronaut is one of the pinnacles of human achievement today, but will it become a lot more like a regular job in future? -What kind of science does sub-orbital flight allow you to do? -What's the idea behind Astronauts4Hire?
But I have a special treat for you.
These are the first 17 aspiring commercial astronauts. http://www.astronauts4hire.org/p/astronauts.html
And they have agreed to answer your questions, So here’s the deal. Ask them! (That’s what the comments here are for!) Ask the big questions that you want a commercial astronaut to answer. They can be easy, hard, political, scientific, personal… whatever you want.
Attention to all MCnet Forumer who is student,lawyer,offshore Engineer,Chemical,Biotechnology,Executive,Entrepreneur,Astronomy,Astrophysics, IT,or any field manager, so here’s your big chance. Ask a commercial astronaut anything! What do you want to know?