If all goes well during a flurry of testing over the coming months, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will carry two astronauts to orbit in November, followed by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in December. Those first manned flights by these companies would usher in the first-ever commercial taxi service to earth orbit in 2019, followed by a battle to tempt high-spending tourists to take a trip into space.
Pretty big stuff. The Space Shuttle was nice, but it had gotten long in the tooth and needed to be replaced. While it would have been cool to have some sort of vehicle ready to go when the Shuttle was retired, I’m glad that commercial spaceflight has taken off (pun intended!).
See, spaceflight is fun and exciting to think about right now. The thought of being strapped into a massive fuel tank and lighting a fire underneath you to propel yourself into the sky is very exhilarating. But for space to really advance and be accessable to all, or needs to become boring. Yes, boring. Like commercial airlines. Flight was as exciting back in the early 1900’s as spaceflight became in the 60’s and 70’s. But while the Space Shuttle tried it’s best, I don’t think it ever really made spaceflight boring; I think people just kinda forgot about it, since they weren’t flying up there themselves.
Commercial spaceflight, on the other hand, has a chance to make space routine. SpaceX and Boeing don’t want to be a satellite delivery service; they want to get everyone up into space that they can, and they do that by being cheaper and safer. In other words, boring.
One day in my lifetime, I hope to search Priceline for a discount ticket to the Sea of Tranquility to do some sightseeing. If that does happen, these crewed spaceflights this year are going to be the beginning.