Four tourists go into space again. At the earliest tonight, they will be launched in Florida with a SpaceX spaceship. Its not the short-term spaceships this time when billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos made, but a flight in Earth orbit that should last three days.
Onboard: Jared Isaacman, an internet billionaire who pays the flight himself. He is also the commander and he takes three passengers: someone who survived cancer as a child and two winners of Isaacmans competitions.
The billionaire wants to raise $200 million for the fight against childhood cancer with the Inspration4 flight. He donates 100 million himself. He doesnt want to say what he pays for the space travel, but NASA says a launch with the Crew Dragon costs around $210 million.
In the meantime, not everyone will be cheering at the launch. Theres lots of criticism. Climate activists point to the emissions of the missile, researchers (who often wait years to get an experiment into space) about the lack of scientific usefulness. Isaacman and his crew will look out the window a lot.
“It seems to be the new toy of the super-rich,” says aviation historian Marc Dierikx, a member of the Academys Huygens Institute. “The question is whether we have something to gain from that as a society. Such a space flight will undoubtedly be fascinating and special, but what do we have about it?”
On the other hand, wasnt there much skepticism when the first trains started running in the 19th century? And flying the first passenger planes wasnt for everyone about 100 years ago either. “It soon took an annual salary to fly from Amsterdam to London,” says Dierikx
Now its Netflix following the flight, at that time it was journalists who were asked along. “With the underlying goal the thought that the newspaper reader would see what that plane could mean for him in the future.”
He will expect the passengers of the Inspiration4 mission the same kind of euphoric messages as those first air passengers. “Like that of a NRC journalist in 1919 after flying a round over Amsterdam: That I fly is everything for me! ”
People were also concerned about safety at the time. And not without reason. Dierikx: “Those first devices were not very reliable. Several of them have disappeared with passengers and already over the North Sea. People were often greatly relieved when they were back on the ground. I imagine todays space tourists share that feeling. With a new means of transport that we dont know yet, thats quite a big threshold.”
A to A
But thats where the comparison ends. Because the criticism that is now on the alien pleasure flights did not sound at that time. “The air shop projected a new mode of transport around 1920 where the world had something to gain. This is to reduce travel times between international destinations. That perspective doesnt have space at all. They go from A to A.”
This is still true for this mission, confirms space expert Ronald Klompe, associated with the Aerodrome Space Museum. “This is especially the ultimate form of sight seeing. SpaceX has even replaced the coupling mechanism that normally secures the capsule to the ISS with a large view dome.”
But in the near future, tourist flights must have a destination. First of all, the ISS space station, where the company Axiom wants to connect a special hotel module, but then beckons for SpaceX and also Bezos Blue Origin the moon, expects Klompe. “Its a matter of time before the first wealthy passenger hires such a commercial lander to take a private trip.”