60 years since 1st American in house: Tourists lining up

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Sixty years after Alan Shepard grew to become the primary American in house, on a regular basis persons are on the verge of following in his cosmic footsteps.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin firm is lastly opening ticket gross sales for brief hops from Texas launched by a rocket named New Shepard. Details are coming Wednesday, the 60th anniversary of Shepard’s Mercury flight.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic goals to kick off vacationer flights subsequent yr, simply as quickly as he straps into his space-skimming, plane-launched rocketship for a take a look at run from the New Mexico base.

And Elon Musk’s SpaceX will launch a billionaire and his sweepstakes winners in September. That shall be adopted by a flight by three businessmen to the International Space Station in January.

“It’s a huge leap, right?” said NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, commander of SpaceX’s most recent flight to the space station. “But it’s pretty cool … citizens will be able to have the chance to go to space and experience what we get to.”

It’s all rooted in Shepard’s 15-minute flight on May 5, 1961.

Shepard was really the second individual in house — the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin three weeks earlier, to Shepard’s eternal dismay.

The 37-year-old Mercury astronaut and Navy take a look at pilot minimize a slick sci-fi determine in his silver spacesuit as he stood in the predawn darkness at Cape Canaveral, trying up at his Redstone rocket. Impatient with all of the delays, together with one other maintain in the countdown simply minutes earlier than launch, he famously growled into his mic: “Why do not you repair your little drawback and light-weight this candle?”

His capsule, Freedom 7, soared to an altitude of 116 miles (186 kilometers) before parachuting into the Atlantic.

Twenty days later, President John F. Kennedy committed to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely by decade’s end, a promise made good in July 1969 by Apollo 11′s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Shepard, who died in 1998, went on to command Apollo 14 in 1971, becoming the fifth moonwalker — and lone lunar golfer.

Since Gagarin and Shepard’s pioneering flights, 579 people have rocketed into space or reached its fringes, according to NASA. Nearly two-thirds are American and just over 20% Soviet or Russian. About 90% are male and most are white, although NASA’s crews have been more diverse in recent decades.

A Black community college educator from Tempe, Arizona, sees her spot on SpaceX’s upcoming private flight as a symbol. Sian Proctor uses the acronym J.E.D.I. for “a just, equitable, diverse and inclusive space.”

NASA wasn’t always on board with space tourism, but is today.

“Our goal is one day that everyone’s a space person,” NASA’s human spaceflight chief, Kathy Lueders said following Sunday’s splashdown of a SpaceX capsule with four astronauts. “We’re very excited to see it starting to take off.”

Twenty years ago, NASA clashed with Russian space officials over the flight of the world’s first space tourist.

California businessman Dennis Tito paid $20 million to visit the space station, launching atop a Russian rocket. Virginia-based Space Adventures arranged Tito’s weeklong trip, which ended May 6, 2001, as well as seven more tourist flights that followed.

“By opening up his checkbook, he kicked off an industry 20 yrs ago,” Space Adventures co-founder Eric Anderson tweeted last week. “Space is opening up more than it ever has, and for all.”

There’s already a line.

A Russian actress and film director are purported to launch from Kazakhstan in the autumn. They’ll be adopted in December by Space Adventures’ two latest shoppers, additionally launching on a Russian Soyuz rocket. SpaceX shall be subsequent up in January with the three businessmen; the flight from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center was organized by Axiom Space, a Houston firm run by former NASA workers. And as early as 2023, SpaceX is meant to take a Japanese entrepreneur and his visitors across the moon and again.

While no fan of human spaceflight — he prefers robotic explorers — Duke University emeritus historical past professor Alex Roland acknowledges the emergence of spaceflight firms may be “probably the most vital change in the final 60 years.” Yet he wonders whether or not there shall be a lot curiosity as soon as the novelty wears off and the inevitable fatalities happen.

Then there’s the excessive value of admission.

The U.S., Canadian and Israeli entrepreneurs flying SpaceX early subsequent yr are paying $55 million — every — for his or her 1 1/2-week mission.

Virgin Galactic’s tickets price significantly much less for minutes versus days of weightlessness. Initially $250,000, the value is anticipated to go up as soon as Branson’s firm begins accepting reservations once more.

As for SpaceX’s personal flight on a totally automated Dragon capsule, tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman will not say what he’s paying. He considers his three-day flight a “great responsibility” and is taking no shortcuts in coaching; he took his crewmates mountaineering up Mount Rainier final weekend to toughen them up.

“If one thing does go improper, it is going to set again each different individual’s ambition to go and grow to be a industrial astronaut,” Isaacman stated lately.

John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, the place he based the Space Policy Institute, has blended emotions about this shift from house exploration to journey tourism.

“It takes the romance and excitement out of going to space,” Logsdon stated in an electronic mail this week. Instead of the daybreak of a brand new period like so many have proclaimed, it is “more like the end of the era when space flight was special. I guess that is progress.”


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives assist from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely answerable for all content material.

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