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Tragedy won't stop space revolution

Tragedy won't stop space revolution (credit: Emily Giedzinski/) Tragedy won't stop space revolution (credit: Emily Giedzinski/)
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Oct. 31 marked a tragic day in privatized space travel when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital spaceplane designed for space tourism, crashed as the result of an in-flight breakup and killed one pilot. However, this tragedy will have little to no effect on the growing success of the privatized space industry, nor should it.

With something as risky as space travel, the possibility of tragedies occurring along the way is unavoidable. However, people like Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson, SpaceX Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Elon Musk, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will not be held back. They have made it clear that they wish to revolutionize and privatize space travel. Musk has went as far as envisioning a colony of 80,000 on Mars, predicting that he can bring down costs to $500,000 per person. .

People think he is crazy to say something like this when NASA’s Curiosity rover hit costs of nearly $2.5 billion. However, the amount of funding that NASA spent on its space shuttle program was much larger than the $400 million that Virgin Galactic spent on the development of its SpaceShipTwo. Crazy people like Musk are the ones that revolutionize the world. Government programs like NASA are too matured, bureaucratic, and costly to do something as radical as this.

While Virgin Galactic’s crash was horrific for those involved, those in the private space industry can be thankful that this occurred during a test flight and not while a number of wealthy, most likely prominent, citizens were aboard. The negative spotlight that would have resulted from such a disaster might have overshadowed the private space industry with backlash from investors and the general public.

Despite the fact that the SpaceShipTwo crash was indeed a tragic event, the private space industry is at an all-time high in profits, popularity, and potential. Companies like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX promise a bright future out of this world. Private universities such as our own are coming closer than ever to sending private rovers to the moon at a fraction of the cost of a NASA rover.

More importantly though, companies and universities will not simply go to space; they will bring space to the masses. Someday, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic will make travel to space more accessible than ever. Carnegie Mellon’s Andy Rover team, in conjunction with Astrobotics, is currently working on a project to bring virtual moon travel to the public with an Oculus Rift linked to its Andy Rover cameras.

Whether through virtual reality or physical presence, private companies and universities will bring space closer to the general population than ever before. Sure, there will be road bumps along the way, such as the Virgin Galactic accident. However, one thing is for sure: in the past half-century, the government has proven that it cannot succeed in its space travel goals affordably. Only minds like Musk, Branson, Bezos, and those found at universities like Carnegie Mellon will make them a reality.