Most of us have been fascinated with space travel since childhood, whether we’re old enough to remember the original airing of the TV show “Star Trek” or young enough to fund the launch of rockets a little ho-hum.
There was a time, though, when space travel was a faraway dream for those who didn’t grow up to be astronauts.
Now, space travel is a faraway dream for those who aren’t among the 1%.
For example, Sir Richard Branson flew to the edge of space this week in a 1 1/2-hour trip on his Virgin Galactic rocket plane, during which time he had the opportunity to see the sky turn black and the Earth’s curves in the distance.
As much as many of us would love to have that experience, it’s unlikely. As many things are, it’s cost-prohibitive.
A ticket for a one-hour trip on Virgin Galactic’s space plane costs $250,000, which includes a spacesuit and training.
That’s a bargain. To fly with Amazon owner Jeff Bezos next week costs $28 million.
Some have suggested billionaires should stay on Earth and, instead, focus of using their excessive wealth to help battle problems here, especially problems like unnaturally rapid climate change.
While that sounds like a great idea, there is much value to space travel.
NASA calculated that 444,000 lives have been saved, 14,000 jobs have been created, $5 billion dollars in revenue has been generated, and there has been $6.2 billion in cost reductions because of spin-off programs from NASA research. The study of space also has given scientists many insights into Earth’s existence and future.
Branson said he plans for astronomical costs of early space trips to subsidize future trips, making them affordable for more would-be travelers. We doubt it. It’s more likely Branson will add to his wealth and enjoy it so much, the cost of space travel with Virgin will remain high, as millionaires and billionaires flock to the opportunity and support those outrageous prices.
When space travel can benefit our lives on Earth, it’s a great and noble endeavour. When it’s another profit-making venture or joy ride for the top 1%, it’s a waste.