The first powered airplane flights took place in 1903. By 1909 the president of the United States had already flown in an aircraft in the nineteen teens children were flying in aircraft with Barnstormers by the 1920s families were taking vacations using aircraft, if they could afford it, and the first airlines had already formed.
In spaceflight we are more than 50 years into it already and we haven’t even gotten to the stage of the Barnstormers yet. That’s about to change. Right now out there in the world there are more than a thousand people just like you and me they’re holding tickets to fly in space. This is real. I’m very fortunate to actually have three tickets to space it turns out, and it’s all thanks to a little incentivize competition.
SpaceShip One and Beyond
When Burt and his team won the Ansari X Prize in 2004 with spaceship one, that could be thought of in lot of ways like space flights equivalent of the Wright brothers first flight. The idea here was patterned after the aviation prices of the early 20th century and with the with the incentive with the idea of incentivizing non-government organizations out there to launch a manned reusable vehicle to space and then turn right around again and do the same thing with that same vehicle within two weeks, and you know what it worked, because right now out there from there are more than just a few companies these included that are building the vehicles that are going to take us to space.
It’s it’s really a revolution in access commercial and personal access
to suborbital space. Early in the industry right now we’re still talking about you know the Alan Shepard special if you will. We are talking about 15 or 20 minutes flights up to altitudes over 62 miles, 328,000 feet, mach3 three-and-a-half geez on the way up. You’re gonna see an inky black sky, the curvature of the earth that thin blue ribbon of the atmosphere and you’re going to get a few magical minutes of zero G over the top before reentry and landing where you from where you took off.
Now tourism is certainly that vehicle that can expand our access to space, and it’s already working. You can walk into a travel agency today and buy a ticket to space. What’s you know no longer that exclusive destination of professional astronaut. What’s it gonna be like. What’s our how we gonna relate to the space flight experience when the artist down the street or grandma next door is flying into space. What would you do in space?
What would you take with you? More importantly, what would you bring back with you from that new and unique perspective on this beautiful blue planet that we all live on together. That same transformative capability means that these vehicles are going offer unprecedented opportunities for research and education as well.
$100.000 Space Rides
Ordinary scientist in a wide range of disciplines go to some pretty extreme field trips to get their research done all the time. Sub-orbital space is to me what that deep-sea hydrothermal vent is to the oceanographer, and the key here is routine frequent and low-cost access to space. You can go out there right now and buy a ticket for you to space and your payload with xcore aerospace for instance for something like a hundred thousand dollars.
That’s 25 times cheaper than a than a conventional sounding rocket mission like you know the normal way that we’ve we’ve done these things up until now. What if your car or your house suddenly cost twenty five times less. What if cars suddenly cost a thousand dollars, right. At these kinds of price points individuals, companies, institutions, governments, and nations that previously couldn’t afford this kind of thing can now get into the game, right. Curacao and Kenya can have a human spaceflight program, okay.
Commercial Space Tourism
These vehicles are being designed with commercial tourism in mind and so they’re designed to fly weekly, daily in some cases, and that offers up the possibility of …4:16 science. The ability to go out there fire experiment on Monday, and if you’ve gotten results that are particularly interesting that you weren’t expecting, or if things maybe didn’t work exactly the way you were wanting to you can turn right around again in flight on Wednesday.
Right, we’ve never had that kind of a capability in space flight before. You can fly with your payload and conduct your experiment yourself hands-on in space. Nobody is going to do your investigation better than you are, and with relatively gentle rides these things are designed for Grandma to fly the space.
The expense of building your hardware is going to be a lot less because you don’t need to build it to the tolerance of a very you know rough rocket right up into space, so there’s a lot of new capabilities here that I can’t wait to see the innovative ideas the creative people come up with to do here. Here’s another out of the box idea for you. You want to get kids interested in careers in space science and engineering.
I can’t think of a better way than literally hands-on where these options offers the possibility of you know a high school class coming in at the beginning of the semester designing and developing a experiment, raising the funds to build that experiment and buy the tickets to space with a few weekend car washes, right. Getting in the results back by the end to that term while they’re all still assembled as a team together and do that all by the end of the semester right, that’s a game-changer right there.
Space Science and the Asteroid Guy
Now all these really need neat possibilities have got you know Iike colleagues in various fields atmospheric sciences, life sciences, micro-gravity granular material that’s that’s where I live. I’m an asteroid guy right. I wanna understand the microgravity geology on the surfaces of these little asteroids that were getting ready to go explore, helio physics, development of new instruments and new technologies, testing them out before more extensive investigations on the space station or before being deployed on interplanetary missions.
These are all possibilities. I’m not gonna talk about the details of those, but you know I just can’t wait. We’re in the early days in this right so I don’t I can’t tell you exactly what people are going to be doing up there. It’s like I don’t know being back in the 1970s trying to figure out which would do with a home computer right. You know you can organize a recipes with them or something you know, I don’t know. Who knew right who knew, so I think we’re in that were in that same kind game right there right now.
Where I work at Southwest Research Institute we’re so excited by all this that we’re nothing waiting for government funding; we’re putting our own internal research and development money where our mouth is. Our program leader, Alan stern, has led the development of our own little human spaceflight program right here in downtown Boulder right down the hill.
We’ve assembled our team our flight team, Alan, myself, Kathy Holkin, we’ve designed and developed our first three experiment payloads. We’ve gone out there and signed our flight contract and bought our tickets to space we’ve got three flights with Virgin Galactic, six flights purchased with excore areospace with options for up to seventeen flights, and we’re putting ourselves…
Our Zero Gravity Flights
We’re getting ready ourselves. We’re going through training, flying high performance jet aircraft to get used to the you know the centrifuges to get used to the G forces from launch and reentry. We’re flying zero gravity flights to get used to what it’s like to work in that environment, to make sure our payloads are working properly. We’re doing all this cause you know we’re going to space to get a job done. We’re going to work. We want to bring back the research goods and you won’t need to go through this much training for your flight. You might want to do some of it like the zero G flight.
It’s actually quite affordable; it’s an amazing experience, and really I think it will enhance your enjoyment of what might be that once in a lifetime you know spaceflight for you. I thought you might kinda enjoy seeing what someone is training looks like a little bit so we put together a little video here to show you what this is all about.
So as you can see we’re not having any fun at all. I know you’re going to though so get ready for your flight because the future is now.
Thank you very much.
Watch the full TEDx Talk by Dan Durda at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzWDEkDAEMk