I talk a lot about SpaceX. I write about their exploits, their goals, and their successes and failures. But they are not the only major player in commercial space flight, not by a long shot. They have been the most well-known company due to their 1.6 Billion dollar contract for supply missions to the International Space Station, but there is great work being done by others. The one company that is starting to move into the spotlight is Blue Origin.
Another company run by an internet billionaire, in this case Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Blue Origin has similar goals to Elon Musk and SpaceX – reuseable rockets, major human presence in space, and big contracts in the future. Though I suppose the major difference is that Blue Origin is keeping it relatively quiet. They aren’t making big sweeping declarations, great gestures, or pursuing big contracts. They are the tortoise to the SpaceX hare, with a solid foundation, steady progress, and now a slow pass of the sleeping hare.
Blue Origin has built the first rocket capable of launching, landing, then launching and landing again. The first successful launch of a recycled rocket. They didn’t launch satellites, didn’t supply space stations, didn’t even take pictures. But they did launch their rocket, named New Shepard, to the edge of space, 100 Km up, what is known as the Karman line.
The question becomes: What now? We know that Blue Origin is focused on the space tourism industry, so it’s likely that they will begin crewed missions with the reusable rockets and eventually scale up to bringing paying customers into orbit. Though I sincerely hope they use the technology to go far beyond that. Maybe this is why I talk about SpaceX – they seem more focused on the exploration side of things and less on the tourism aspect. This is what excites me about space flight.
As humans, we want to push the limits, and when I look at space tourism as a goal, it just reminds me of how much this world is driven by money. But money doesn’t excite people like exploration does. Space tourism will take off as it becomes cheaper, there is no doubt, and if it serves to inspire people with a life-changing experience, I have no issues with it. But the real dreams of space go so far beyond that.
And that’s why I like SpaceX.