Are we ready for space tourism?

Can those that can pay the toll, take the toll?
29 April 2024

Interview with 

Jenifer Millard, Fifth Star Labs


Space hotel


Taking into consideration the healthcare, body clock, and psychological stressors, how much will the impact of space affect what is becoming a race to commercialise space? We have talks of civilian space flights, even space hotels, with the only current constraints on who is eligible to go being the size of the customers wallet. But what impacts will the mercilessly harsh conditions in space have on these endeavours? Astronomer at Fifth Star Labs, and co-host of the Awesome Astronomy podcast, Jeni Millard...

Jeni - I think it's really going to influence the type of adventures the average Joe goes on. Because I feel like for the short jaunt into space, the likes of Blue Origin and New Shepherd where it's an 11 minute flight, it's a parabolic flight, so you're just hopping up and then you're coming back down. You're in microgravity for three to four minutes. I feel like most people can handle that. And I feel like for a couple of days maybe you could cope in space for a couple of days, perhaps, you know, in orbit around the Earth, in a small capsule. But I think it's when we come to the longer journeys where you are maybe on a space station for a few weeks, you are on the surface of the Moon for a couple of weeks, that's then really where we're going to have to start thinking carefully about who can go and do these things. There's going to be physical limitations. I mean, how are people going to cope being on the Moon for more than two weeks and suddenly having two weeks of complete darkness, having no sight of their home planet. I think that might really play with people. And then of course, moving on to Mars. I mean Mars is, let's be honest, probably at least a century into the future, for like the average person to go. With Mars, it'll be seven to nine months to get there. At least three months on the surface because you've got to wait for everything, all the planets to realign to be able to get back. And so, it's a long time to be cooped up with the same people. And so I think it really is going to direct the kind of commercialised space that we see. I think we'll see a focus on the shorter journeys rather than the longer ones.

Will - If we are, as you say, accelerating towards a point where regular schmucks like me can get into space, do you think there may have to be some kind of governing ratifying body that can decide whether or not you are fit and able to do so?

Jeni - I think that there will have to be some kind of generally agreed upon rules, but then I think there are generally agreed upon rules when it comes to putting people on aeroplanes. You know, and while there's no global body that kind of medically tests people, there are these kinds of general rules that then the local health authorities can then enforce and you know, you can go and get your checks and so on like this. And so while I think there's going to have to be some kind of general body that will maybe come up with some general rules, it is going to have to be on an individual basis as well. And I think the psychological side is going to be the most interesting. Because I don't think the psychological side is going to come in too much for the short journeys. When we progress eventually. Not to just go into the Moon for a holiday, but when people are working on the Moon, you can almost imagine maybe they go to the moon for six months and then they come back for six months and then they go again. It's like extreme shift work, something like that. Then we are really going to have to consider all of the psychology there and then we start blurring the lines between commercialisation and professionalism. And I think the way the space sector's going to evolve over the next decades and centuries is going to be really interesting.

Will - And having heard all that you've heard about health, psychology, diet, how long do you think you could last in space?

Jeni - Oh my goodness. What a question. Do you know what, I feel like the little hops into space that you get with Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic? I reckon I could manage that. I reckon I could probably do a couple of days in orbit in a capsule or perhaps a couple of days on a space station. I think beyond that, because I think for a couple of days you're sort of, you'd be so excited, everything is so new and novel and you know, I've just come back from three weeks in the States and it was a lot of travelling. I did seven states in four days on an RV trip and I've been flying here, there and everywhere. And then by the end of those three weeks, I had a fantastic time but you know what, I was done. I was so done. I was like, I just need to go home. So based on that, I feel like I could do a few days, I'd really enjoy it. And then I think after that, that's when the problems might start coming in, be they physical health, be they mental health. That's my personal opinion.


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