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There can be no doubt that commercial interests are beginning to take over space exploration. Huge multi-national consortia, many U.S.-based private corporations and inventors, and, never least, some publicly held companies are all expanding their technology and interest in the benefits of space exploration. What? You thought all the results from space travel were hardly worth it? We’ve covered all that before, from the printed circuit board, the flat screen, the microchip — all these came out of space exploration development programs. Your world, whether you realized it or not, is a direct result of space exploration. 

Nowadays, you can add medicines, stem-cell research and a host of other vastly financially beneficial discoveries to that list. In fact, according to scientific study groups, 95 percent of all current inventions, coding, medical breakthroughs and pure science discoveries come from, benefited from or are based on space exploration and experiments.

Now, many people watched the Falcon 5 launched from the Cape and the placing of that Tesla Roadster in orbit around the Sun. The launch cost less than one third the cost of the Delta IV Heavy NASA launcher that can only carry a tenth of the weight to space. This was the very first commercial launch of anything outside of Earth orbit. 

But did you know that the orbit of that Roadster is elliptical around the sun and at one point it will be further out than Mars? Yes, Mars. 

Effectively, Elon Musk launched a huge payload that reached Mars. Now, you may think, he wants to use the rocket to take man there. Then came the surprise announcement that he is not going to bother certifying the rocket for human travel. “What?” people said, shocked.

That’s right, it’s a freight carrier. How? Why? Because next year Musk is launching BFR, launched atop a massive reusable booster nick-named the BRB. So, what the heck is BFR? It’s 1956 all over again, and you had better start to learn the new names and excitement of space travel. BFR is a transport system 150 feet in length, 30 feet in diameter. 

It can carry a payload to orbit of 150 tons (two-and-one-half times the Falcon 5!) — and what’s more it can turn around and land still weighing 50 tons. 

Oh, and did I mention that this is an “interplanetary transport system?” It is being designed to function is different atmospheres as well as fly hypersonic, supersonic, transonic, and subsonic. Turn-around time after landing is expected to be hours, not days. Oh, and it needs to be able to land on “unimproved terrain” like the surfaces of the Moon or Mars. 

Musk noted, “That is a pretty ridiculous set of requirements for a ship. That’s why we’re working in it first, kill the hardest part.”

“It is conceivable that we’ll do our first full-up orbital test flight in three to four years, including the booster,” (the BRB) Musk added, “It would go to Earth orbit first, but it could go to the Moon shortly thereafter. It is designed to do that.”

Remember, commercial interests, like the United States vs. USSR space race of old, thrive on competition. Keep an eye out for Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin (that was the first to land after launching into orbit), Boeing’s Dragon (which they are renaming Starliner) capsule test this year atop the Delta IV and Virgin Galactic with its White Knight mother ship program which is, despite the hype of carrying tourists into space, completely innovative and may yet prove the most economical for low Earth orbit satellite launches.

 

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.