Space tourism could help boost science research

White Knight Two carrying the spaceplane SpaceShipTwo. jfoust, CC BY

ESA astronaut Samantha Christoforetti and others on a parabolic flight. ESA

Space tourism could help boost science and health research – here’s how:

„The announcement of the draft Spaceflight Bill in the Queen’s Speech will allow the development of spaceports in the UK. This could see members of the paying public launched into space as tourists, or taking sub-orbital flights from London to New York in just 45 minutes.

Such adventures will be made possible through futuristic spaceplanes, as are already in development by companies such as Virgin Galactic, that will enable us mere mortals to experience weightlessness. If this sounds only of interest to those who can afford the six-figure ticket price, it also has major implications for scientific discovery. Space travel-related research has probably already had a more substantial positive impact on your life than you realise, and this announcement could increase this still further.

Space agencies such as ESA and NASA currently provide access to simulated microgravity for scientific research using parabolic flights. These allow human physiology research to be carried out more easily than on the International Space Station, but the time spent in microgravity is very short. Spaceplanes may provide longer sessions, which could enable more comprehensive research to inform the design of experiments into the longer-term physiological changes from spaceflight.

Perhaps one day we will see research teams launching groups of participants to spend a few weeks or months aboard a space hotel in order to study medical interventions that would slow the ageing process on Earth, and to help the human species colonise the Moon or even Mars.

Research dating back to the early years of the space race has led to technologies that benefit us all. Many scientific discoveries have come since the arrival of inhabitable space stations that act as orbital laboratories. NASA’s first space station Skylab helped understand the effects on the human body of spending months in space and paved the way for the International Space Station. (…)“

 

Original article published at The Conversation, see full article there.

Authors: Associate Professor of Musculoskeletal Health, Northumbria University, Newcastle, Lecturer, Northumbria University, Newcastle, PhD Candidate, Northumbria University, Newcastle

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