What does it mean to be a conscious citizen? In her monthly column, senior strategic leader in sustainable and international development, Natasha Hafez explores and expounds on precisely that. Join in her journey towards humanity with purpose.
Thanks to a few multibillionaires who have been competing head-to-head in an emerging business of epic proportions, dreams that once seemed as though they were distant from ‘a galaxy far, far away’, are landing closer to home and becoming a reality. (That is, for any jetsetters willing to spend what some analysts believe could cost up to $400,000 a ticket).
The space tourism industry has been gaining interest since the late 1990s, and this July it’s finally taking off.
Earlier this month, Americans commemorated their birth as a new nation with rockets and fireworks lighting up the sky. As mask mandates and travel restrictions lifted, many Americans began using their freedom to travel outside of their bubbles again. The long-anticipated holiday launched new travel records, while one ‘rocket’s red glare’ went beyond limits and lit up a world of infinite possibilities.
On 11 July, shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration licensed the space line to fly paying passengers to space, Virgin Galactic set the stage for a new travel route: outer space. British entrepreneur and billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, took flight aboard his team’s supersonic jet, VSS Unity, officially marking a commemorative destination.
Space, a domain that historically has been confined to government agencies and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has expanded its horizons and opened its doors to new audiences.
For the vast majority who are not rocket scientists, childhood cartoon classics like The Jetsons, science-fiction novels, and major Hollywood blockbusters (Star Wars and Star Trek) are what fueled imaginations with space travel dreams and aspirations.
Branson, the Virgin Group Founder (and most recently commercial astronaut), Amazon.com, Inc. Founder Jeff Bezos, and Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, have all been trying to build a nascent industry in space flight to expand the ways in which customers can better experience, explore, and understand the world. Earlier this week, on the anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Spacecraft safely flew four private citizens to space and back. One paying customer purchased a ticket onboard the new commercial space aircraft for $28m. Increased spaceflight has the potential to create a change in humanity for the better, but first Bezos and his fellow competitors are building out the infrastructure so that future generations can continue to innovate, driving down costs and making space tourism more accessible to everyone.
Earlier this year, I discussed thoughts on how the travel sector plays a critical role in the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (for a quick recap, check out Dispatch #1). Similarly, space tourism has the potential to support the SDGs. Space-based technologies are central in understanding the challenges we face; as they enrich us with critical data that can help us forecast and advance the global effort. Space supports and enhances our human development by expanding our world perspective (literally and figuratively)! To understand how space directly supports each of the SDGs, please refer to the icon below and follow this link to learn more.
UBS estimates that by 2030, space tourism may generate $4 billion, in that year alone. But, before we travel at light speed ahead, there is still a vast expanse of unknown space and territory to explore. The commercial space flight market carries financial and physical risk. While the exciting developments this month offer optimism and hope for more ways in which we can strengthen our efforts to attain a better, sustainable world, space remains a limited resource that must be protected through a joint vision. With an increasing number of tourists and entities entering the space arena, it is imperative that we ensure necessary and ongoing facilitation for international cooperation so that the benefits of space are attainable to everyone, everywhere.
Let’s reach higher, the sky is our limit – or is it?
The Conscious Citizen