The start of a new year brings with it lots of possibilities. Here at the Texas Standard, we’re excited by the ones having to do with space exploration. In 2019, humans might actually come close to achieving some of the things the science-fiction writers and their fans have merely fantasized about.
Eric Berger is the senior space editor at Ars Technica, and says this year could be the the first time astronauts to launch into space in a private spacecraft.
“It’s been a long time that we’ve been waiting for this,” Berger says.
He says the U.S. hasn’t sent astronauts into space in its own craft since 2011, when NASA ended the Space Shuttle program. Instead it has relied on Russia to get astronauts to the International Space Station. Private companies like Boeing and SpaceX have been working with the U.S. government over the years as well, and Berger says this is the year when their spacecraft will most likely take flight with astronauts.
Berger says Texas will continue to expand its space industry. SpaceX already has a rocket-testing facility near Waco, and he says it’s doing more testing at its new facility in Boca Chica in far-South Texas.
“In the last month or so, they’ve really ramped up activity there,” Berger says. “They’re starting tests for their next rocket, this big launch system … now known as the ‘super-heavy’ rocket.”
Berger says he’s looking forward to tests this spring of a spaceship that will ride on top of that rocket.
When it comes to space tourism, Berger says Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin will start commercial flights this year. Neither has flown passengers into space, Virgin Galactic did get close when a pilot and co-pilot flew 50 miles above the earth.
“You get above almost all of the earth’s atmosphere at that elevation. You see the curvature of the earth, you feel weightlessness,” Berger says.
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Written by Caroline Covington.