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The Final Frontier

Apparently 2014 is the year that mere mortals (who have a lot of loose change in their pockets) will be able to jet off into space for a holiday. During the 1960’s when astronauts were getting pretty good at landing on the moon and suchlike, people thought by the year 2000 there would be hotels on the moon. Flying cars were also a valid prediction by futurologists. ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future’ is a very true statement. It’s now 2014 and sadly, we are yet to see flying cars. But there is the impending option of space travel. Which feels terrifyingly futuristic to me, and I live in the present. So by this logic the future is now. To date there has been a handful of people who have journeyed to space commercially, originally against NASA’s wishes. But now there are a couple of viable options, so let’s take a look.

The forerunner in the commercial space flight world seems to be Virgin Galactic, spearheaded by our favourite British entrepreneur- turned- eccentric-travel- enthusiast, Richard Branson. From what I remember his balloon adventures didn’t manage to really take off, so will his space mission? A recent announcement from the company suggests that their first space flight shall blast off in the second part of this year. The first passengers will Include Branson and his two children. Right now the cost of a flight is $250,000, and around 700 people have signed up. Branson is hoping that the costs will come down as more people venture into space, so in the future we may be able to hop to the moon for a more affordable $100,000.

Space X is an innovative commercial space operative that plan on using re-usable rockets. It was founded on the idea of reducing costs of space travel (okay…) and enabling the colonisation of Mars (hmmm…). I am a fan of wild, far-flung ideas, but this, to me, seems a tad too mad-professor. Credibility is happily restored, from the fact that Space X has been endorsed by NASA for a few hops to space carrying cargo. If it’s good enough for NASA, then it’s good enough for me. Also I like the name of their spacecraft ‘Dragon’. The Dragon can transport seven people into orbit at a time. The company will share their base in Mexico with Virgin Galactic and hope to be transporting people into space from 2015.

Like all pioneering travel, space tourism is dependent on being able to afford it. Maybe in our lifetime it will become a commonplace activity. The history of our travel habits are quite interesting, traveling for leisure in historical terms is still a relatively new idea. The way in which the world has opened up in the 20th century (to the masses) is quite astonishing. It looks like we are now on the cusp of space travel, not content with the offerings on the Earth. Where to next? It’s impossible to predict....