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Friday, July 02, 2010

Become an Astronaut in This Decade?

The Los Angles Times today notes in an article entitled "Astronaut" that only 399 NASA astronauts have been selected since 1959. The writer provides the general requirements to be considered for selection as a US Government astronaut "but only a few are chosen."

The piece fails to reference the less stringent requirements for a commercial spaceflight participant or the new-new-thing, commercial astronaut. The possible routes to space are growing rapidly as NASA moves to embolden the nascent commercial space carriers. Space Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), Bigelow Aerospace, Orbital Sciences Corporation, and others have or are seeking the new commercial astronauts with mission possibilities around the corner. Congress will look carefully at the safety of utilizing commercial astronauts.

Virginia-based Space Adventures has lofted seven 'spaceflight participants' paying from $20 to $35 million USD for one week of 'hang time' at the International Space Station after rocketing to low earth orbit aboard a Russian cosmonaut piloted Soyuz-TMA spacecraft. No spaceflight participant has yet to conduct a spacewalk for an extra $15 million and the required seven month training regime. The firm has yet confirmed any $100-million flight contracts for the firms advertised circumlunar trajectory mission.

The most significant opportunities may come in the years 2011 through 2015 for hundreds to reach suborbital space and double-digit numbers more to achieve orbital astronaut status with the leading commercial orbital space launch firms. There is a strong possibility that a US commercial astronaut could land on the Moon prior to any other nationally-sponsored mission by the Chinese, Russians, Europeans or Indians.

Not to count out the NASA astronaut, President Obama has set a destination of a deep space human asteroid mission by 2025. The only problem here is trying to discern the will of the Congress in the appropriation of NASA funding priorities. "Flying the fastest and the furthermost" may still be with the American astronaut in the next decade whether back to the Moon, an asteroid, or the Mars moon Phobos.

1 comment:

brian said...

Commercial astronauts, particularly those to suborbital space, will be the fastest growing segment of the space-faring population in this decade. That's why we formed Astronauts4Hire. We will be the leaders in providing commercial astronauts to those who need them.