July brought two huge events. In the first, Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) plus four others were launched into suborbital space aboard the VSS Unity 282,000 feet above Earth.
Branson tweeted: I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.
Nine days later, Jeff Bezos (the richest person in the world) along with three others traveled into suborbital space aboard New Shepard, a rocket topped by a capsule. They reached a height of 351,120 feet above Earth. New Shepard was named for Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space.
Besides Bezos, his brother, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemon (a Dutch physics student, 82-year-old Wally Funk finally realized her dream. Wally is a member of the famous (or infamous) "Mercury 13", a group of women who completed all the tests required of the original Mercury astronauts yet were denied the opportunity to go into space because of their gender. Wally has the distinction of being the oldest person in space.
Funk said: "It was great. I loved it. I can hardly wait to go again."
As I watched the landing of New Shepard, I was captivated by Wally's enthusiasm. The picture (above) of her exit from the capsule says it all.
Even though I knew the names of every Mercury and Apollo astronaut, I never knew about those women. Shame on NASA for denying them their dreams.
I've always been infatuated with the space program. I lined the bulletin boards in my classroom with pictures from space as well as the astronauts. If I'd been given the opportunity to go into space back then, I would've jumped at the chance. Until Wally's trip, I always thought I was too old. Now, I'm not so sure. I'm younger than her. 😊
When I blogged about my novella Mission to New Earth, I asked readers if they had the chance would they go into space. Most who replied said they'd go if they could come back. My thoughts exactly. We all thought of our families and wouldn't want to leave them forever, like the characters in Mission. Their task was to explore a "Goldilocks" planet, one that was just right for humans. However, the planet was so far away, they couldn't return. A one-way trip. Unlike the billionaires, who hoped they would return in one piece.
But what have these two historic launches proved? Is their a market for tourism in space? Would customers be willing to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars for the chance to say they've been in space? I'm pretty sure there's already a waiting list.
I'll ask the question again: if money were no object, would you go into space?
Earth’s overpopulation and dwindling resources force the United Earth Space Agency to ramp up exploration of new planets for a possible new home. As Sara Grenard and her team prepare for launch, are they ready for the one-way trip? Will they be in time?