Commercial Flights to Space Cause Concern with Multiple Communities

Melita Wiles

S&E Editor

 

Commercial flights are continuing through COVID-19 to vacation destinations, loved ones’ homes, and to space. This summer, Jeff Bezos travelled 66 miles into space with his hand-picked group of three others: his brother, Mark Bezos, 18-year-old student Oliver Daeman, and 82-year-old Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk. This flight contained both the oldest and youngest people to ever travel into space, Funk and Daeman, respectively. 

Ms. Wally Funk, who held the well-deserved fourth spot on the trip, was part of the group of women called the Mercury 13 in the 1960s. They underwent the same screening tests as male astronauts, but never got to fly under the U.S. National Space Program. 

No staff were required to be on the capsule when flying into space, so Bezos and the other three passengers were completely on their own in an automated capsule. The flight took all of 10 minutes and 10 seconds. There are two more flights planned before the year’s end, and tickets being auctioned off are approaching $100 million each. 

After the flight, the participants had nothing but positive comments about their adventure into the great unknown. Bezos said, “we’re going to build a road to space so our kids and their kids can build a future.” Critics question Bezos’s funding of space tourism, when he could be giving Amazon employees pay raises or donating more money to help fight climate change. This raises an ethical question: how much responsibility do the ultra-rich have when it comes to fighting current world issues like climate change, world hunger, or homelessness? Bezos claims that he does have an environmental plan for using outer space. His plan is to move all pollution from heavy industry into space to keep the Earth “the beautiful gem of a planet that it is.” He has visions of people living and working in free-floating colonies that can hold 1 trillion in space. Although there is no concrete plan to fix anything on Earth, like the already existing problems of pollution, climate change, and other long standing issues, this is how he imagines we should move forward. 

Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, plans to send clients into space by the end of this month. This will cost tens of millions of dollars for a seat into orbit about 360 miles from Earth for at least three days.