In the past few years, American companies SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic enabled dozens of civilians to travel into orbit and officially receive the title of “astronaut”.
Once deemed as highly unrealistic, experts now say that space travel will soon be as accessible as commercial air travel.
However, the prices of the space travel ticket range somewhere from several hundred thousand up to tens of millions of dollars.
George Nield, the president and founder of Commercial Space Technologies, a US-company that aims to promote and facilitate commercial space activities, made his dream come true in March of 2022 when he flew aboard the suborbital space tourism rocket New Shepard developed by Jeff Bezos' company, Blue Origin.
Nield, the former associate administrator for the United States Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation, visited Armenia in September 2022 to participate in the STARMUS VI Festival.
In an exclusive interview with ARMENPRESS, Nield spoke about the future of private space companies and commercial space travel.
ARMENPRESS: In March of 2022 you flew to space as a private astronaut aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket. Do you think that commercial space programs have a future?
George Nield: I think we’re in the middle of a very significant transformation in how we operate in Space. It used to be that almost everything that happened in Space was done by governments. Going forward that is no longer going to be the case because private companies are now developing the capabilities to take people and satellites into Space. And we’re seeing a lot of benefits from that. It’s very interesting to compare what we’ve been doing with governments and what private industry is able to do in general and especially in the United States, I think we are learning that companies can do things less expensively, including more new technologies and innovation. They’re willing to take some risks in order to have future gains. They have the opportunity to think about new markets, new customers, new products. That’s not the government’s job but that’s part of what business is and the companies have access to new sources of funding and investments instead of just relying on the taxpayers’ dollars from the government. So in all of these ways I think the private industry, the commercial space aspect is going to continue to grow over time and become more and more important in the future.
ARMENPRESS: Today the United States is the leading country in terms of commercial flights. In your opinion what countries can follow the US in this race?
George Nield: I think it’s interesting to observe that – yes, the Space is hard and in the past has been very expensive but now as Space is changing there’s more and more opportunities for other countries to become involved. There’s no longer any need to build a giant launch pad complex like at Kennedy Space Center, to have a space Shuttle or a large rocket in order to get to Space. Because rockets are becoming smaller, becoming reusable so they can take off, do their mission, come back, then be reused and there’re also more opportunities for other countries to be involved in building satellites and analyzing the data that we get back from Space. So, there’re many ways to become involved in Space without building your own rockets and launching them in your own country.
ARMENPRESS: Some people argue that we should not spend money on Space explorations and commercial space transportation and we should better focus on the problems on Earth. What is your opinion on this matter?
George Nield: I think we need to do both. By trying these hard things to learn about our planet, our Solar system, the Universe, we can take lessons that will help us to live better lives on Earth. The other part of that question, also it’s that, again in the past it’s been the governments doing the programs and so they had to use the people’s money to have those programs. Now if you don’t want to go to Space, you don’t have to buy a ticket. It’s only those people who are willing and interested to go, that are paying for these adventures.
ARMENPRESS: How was flying on Blue Origin and becoming an astronaut?
George Nield: It was fantastic. It’s very hard to describe because it was just a wonderful experience. The rockets and caps...