The 21st Century Space Race

Everybody knows about the Apollo missions in the late 20th century, when Neil Armstrong famously quoted, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, as he became the first human to stand on the moon. But since then, space exploration hasn’t been as enthusiastic and exciting. Until now.

Unlike the Space Race in the 60s, where powerful countries tried to beat each other to space, the new space race is between multi-billionaires with their private space companies. The biggest players are Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, said that his company aims to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Jeff Bezos, who founded Blue Origin, said the company believes that “in order to preserve Earth, our home, for our grandchildren’s grandchildren, we must go to space to tap its unlimited resources and energy”. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is attempting to be the first to offer commercial human spaceflight, trying to open up space to everyone.

Out of all the private space companies, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has achieved the most, with many successful test flights, transporting cargo to the International Space Station, setting up satellites in orbit and sending the first humans to space from the United States since the Apollo missions. He even launched his own Tesla vehicle into space. Not being publicly traded, Musk doesn’t intend to make SpaceX public till it accomplishes its Mars ambitions. He aims to launch a SpaceX rocket off to Mars, containing only cargo by 2022. He has hopes to send a million people to Mars by 2050. He also started a company called Starlink, which aims to set up microsatellites in lower Earth orbit, with the goal of providing affordable internet connection to every corner of the planet.

Following Musk’s remarkable success, other space companies felt the need to do something that will put them on the map. Recently, Jeff Bezos announced that he will be going to space with his brother on July 20th. Following this Richard Branson immediately announced and travelled to space on July 11th. Soon after, this incident resulted in a debate on where space really begins. Blue Origin argued that Kármán line, 100 kilometers above Earth’s mean sea level, is where space truly begins, and Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic did not cross that line, whereas Jeff Bezos is said to be travelling above the Kármán line. Various scientists, astronauts and astronomers jumped into the debate arguing who among the two is right. Famous physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson believes that Richard Branson did not in fact really go to space.

Everyone is waiting for Jeff Bezos to travel to space tomorrow on the New Shephard spacecraft by Blue Origin. This is just the beginning of the massive space exploration business and many private companies are jumping into the very risky yet insanely profitable (if successful) market of the future.

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