Richard Branson flew to the edge of space. Here is the meaning


Virgin Galactic has already registered 650 people to fly in its vehicle, including musician Justin Bieber and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, but while it’s only accessible to the rich and famous for now, there’s hope that such flights may one day be more affordable for the general public. .

Yesterday’s flight wasn’t just about bragging rights. Suborbital flights also allow for important scientific work to be done. “Researchers flying their own science are very, very valuable,” says Laura Forczyk of space consulting firm Astralytical. An experiment from the University of Florida was conducted on this first flight. see how plants respond to microgravity. Future missions will examine how dust behaves on asteroids and apply techniques for performing surgery in space.

Rather than relying on remote systems or astronauts on the International Space Station, this could be managed in a crucial way by researchers like Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Texas and the leader of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. For example, Stern will test an astronomical imaging system Previously used on the Space Shuttle can make useful observations of the solar system.

“There is a population theorized for 150 years. [asteroids] Inside Mercury’s orbit,” Stern says. “The best way to look at them is from space at dusk. On the space station, the twilight phenomenon lasts only 30 seconds as it travels at 18,000 miles per hour. But on SpaceShipTwo or New Shepard, this phenomenon persists for minutes.”

Of course, there are many valid criticisms of two billionaires going into space in the midst of a pandemic, and it is unlikely that many of us will be able to afford the journey in the coming years. But the childish Branson/Bezos rivalry should pave the way for more people to get out there than ever before, scientists say.

“These are not just billionaires and the rich,” Forczyk says. “This could really be the dawn of real commercial space tourism.”

“It shows that the commercial space is ready for primetime,” adds Williams.


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