IF the world was not being too nice to its inhabitants, with Covid and everything else signifying misery, private enterprises took giant strides into the untapped world of private space travel. A mere dream not too long ago, space travel did take meaningful steps in 2021. Baby steps, but with definite signs of a healthy baby on its feet.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX was chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacman, becoming the first crewed orbital mission with no professional astronauts on board. There was Isaacman, a self-described space geek, commander of the flight, physician assistant Hayley Arcenaux, data engineer Chris Sembroski, and geoscientist and science communication specialist Sian Proctor on board. The four occupants circled Earth for three days, splashing down off the Florida coast on Sept 18.
The bar was set earlier in the year by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos who spent a few minutes in space as part of a four-member crew on a reusable rocket built by his firm Blue Origin. The dream, if one needs reminding, is Bezo’s stated goal of building floating space colonies.
Another billionaire in space was Sir Richard Branson of the United Kingdom who reached the edge of space aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane that his company had been developing for 17 years. The trip, in his words, the “experience of a lifetime”. You bet.
Also finding himself on the edge of space was Captain Kirk, a.k.a. actor William Shatner, who became the oldest person to have that feel. The 90-year-old, who played Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek films and television series, took off from the Texas desert with three other individuals on a 10-minute ride to space, returning safely to Earth. Way to go, Man!