Daily News Analysis

New Shephard and Space Tourism

21st July, 2021 Science and Technology

Context

  • Billionaire Jeff Bezos has made a short journey to space, in the first crewed flight of his rocket ship, New Shephard.

What is New Shephard?

  • New Shephard is a rocket system that has been designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Karman line – the internationally recognized boundary of space.
  • The idea is to provide easier and more cost-effective access to space meant for purposes such as academic research, corporate technology development and entrepreneurial ventures among others.
  • New Shephard will also allow space tourists to experience microgravity by taking them 100 km above the Earth.
  • New Shephard has been named after astronaut Alan Shephard – the first American to go to space.

 

How does it work?

  • The rocket system consists of two parts, the cabin or capsule and the rocket or the booster.
  • The capsule is fully autonomous and does not require a pilot.
  • The system is a fully reusable, vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle that accelerates for about 2.5 minutes before the engine cuts off.
  • After separating from the booster, the capsule free falls in spacelands back with the help of parachutes, while the booster performs an autonomously controlled vertical landing back to Earth.

 

Where is Space?

  • International law states that outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all, but there is no definitive law stating where national air space actually ends and outer space begins.
  • This leaves the door open for a variety of interpretations.
  • A common definition of space is known as the Kármán Line.
  • Karman Line is an imaginary boundary 100 kilometers(62 miles) above mean sea level.
  • In theory, once this 100 km line is crossed, the atmosphere becomes too thin to provide enough lift for conventional aircraft to maintain flight.
  • At this altitude, a conventional plane would need to reach orbital velocity or risk falling back to Earth.
  • The Kármán line has been compared to international waters, as there are no national boundaries and human laws in force beyond the line.

 

The definition of Karman Line

  • The 100 km boundary of Karman Line is not universally accepted.
  • The Karman line is recognized by the FAI (Federation-Aeronautique-Internationale).
  • The FAI is a global record-keeping and standard-setting body for astronautics and aeronautics.
  • Other international organizations like NASA and the US Air Force do not recognize this definition.
  • NASA and the American Air Force define the limit at 50 miles.

The Pros and Cons of Space Tourism

Cons

  • Exposure to Sun’s Radiation:Space travel technology at the nascent stage can make entering space a dangerous venture. Space travelers are likely to get exposed to harmful radiations from the sun.
  • Health: Spending long hours in zero gravity condition can be dangerous for the person’s cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system. If people accidentally get exposed to high-energy ionizing cosmic rays, it may lead to cancer.
  • Exposure to harmful organisms:We may unwittingly introduce some harmful microorganism from space into the atmosphere of Earth.
  • Poor Regulation:Lack of proper regulation and inadequate safety protocols can make space travel extremely dangerous.
  • Commercialization: Companies engaged in this form of travel may fail to stick to safety measures in a spree to gather more customers.
  • Waste of Resources: Experimentation and unsuccessful ventures may cause an unnecessary waste of resources.

Developing space programs and spacecrafts need a lot of money. That money can be utilized for alleviation of poverty.

  • Inequity:Space tourism is meant for the super rich only. For example, a single 2 ½ hour flight ticket in Virgin Galactic’s upcoming space ship costs $ 250,000.
  • Not environment friendly: Several natural resources are wasted in flying the fuel guzzling rockets. It pollutes the atmosphere as well. Thus, space program is bad for our environment.
  • Not a panacea: It is great to imagine people walking on the surface of Mars. It would not be wise to consider the escape to space will help in escaping the problems of earth. There is nowhere in the solar system where we can find the environment as congenial as that available on earth.

 

Pros

  • Boost to economy:Space tourism will increase the commercial activity in the time of poor state of world economy.
  • Generate Employment:Space tourism will give employment to thousands of people. Manufacturing of new and better spacecraft will give employment to many skilled people.
  • Draw Investors:It will renew interest in space exploration. This will draw more investors for more financial backing to support more innovations in the industry.
  • Pave ways to protect Earth:It would also help in identifying potential hazards dangerous for our planet.
  • Technological advancement: Opens avenues for advanced technology which can be applied to other domains apart from space missions.
  • New resources:Help to find new minerals and other precious materials in space and other planets. This will be of great help to the people of Earth where natural resources are depleting fast.
  • Adventure Tourism:Open a new avenue for adventure tourists.

 

Final Words

  • Once space tourism does become mainstream, it will also positively impact many socioeconomic factors on Earth: creating jobs, educating citizens about space and fostering a new solar-based energy infrastructure.
  • The sweet escape to the stars can eventually awaken us to the awe-inspiring potential of space exploration while also giving us a better appreciation of home.

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57849364#:~:text=Billionaire%20Jeff%20Bezos%20has%20made,18%2Dyear%2Dold%20student.

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-what-is-new-shephard-the-rocket-system-designed-to-provide-cost-effective-access-to-space-7358063/