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Types of Space Tourism

Context:

Recently, Gopi Thotakura, an India-born commercial pilot based in the US, became the first space tourist from India. She, along with five other space tourists, made a short recreational trip to space.

Relevance:

GS III: Space

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Space Tourism
  2. Karman Line

Space Tourism

Definition:

  • A sector of the aviation industry offering tourists the chance to experience space travel for leisure, recreation, or business.

Market Growth:

  • Valued at $848.28 million in 2023.
  • Expected to reach $27,861.99 million by 2032.
Types of Space Tourism:
  • Sub-orbital spaceflight:
    • Takes passengers just beyond the Kármán line (100 km above sea level).
    • Offers a few minutes in outer space before returning to Earth.
    • Example: Blue Origin’s New Shepherd mission.
  • Orbital spaceflight:
    • Takes passengers to an altitude of nearly 1.3 million feet.
    • Passengers can spend from a few days to over a week in space.
    • Example: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 mission in September 2021 took four passengers to an altitude of 160 km for three days in orbit.
Challenges:
  • Cost:
    • Typically, a passenger must pay at least a million dollars for the trip.
  • Environmental Concerns:
    • Rockets emit gaseous and solid chemicals into the upper atmosphere.
    • A 2022 study by UCL, University of Cambridge, and MIT found rocket soot emissions significantly warm the atmosphere.
  • Safety:
    • As of 2023, 676 people have flown into space with 19 fatalities, resulting in an approximate 3% fatality rate.

Karman Line

Definition:

  • An imaginary boundary that marks the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, situated at 100 km (62 miles) above sea level.

Origin:

  • Named after aerospace pioneer Theodore von Kármán.
  • Established by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) in the 1960s.

Significance:

  • An aircraft or spacecraft crossing the Karman line is classified as a spaceflight.
  • Individuals crossing this line are officially recognized as astronauts.
Characteristics:
  • Aerodynamics vs Orbital Mechanics:
    • Below the Kármán line, flight is dominated by aerodynamic principles.
    • Above the line, orbital mechanics become more crucial.
  • Atmospheric Conditions:
    • At the Karman line, the atmosphere is extremely thin.
    • Traditional aircraft relying on wings for lift struggle to function effectively due to the thin atmosphere.
    • Spacecraft above the Karman line require their own propulsion systems to maintain trajectory and counteract the minimal atmospheric drag.

-Source: Indian Express


June 2024
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