Nov. 5, 2012, 1:30 p.m.

Astronaut rockets to the stars

Twinkle, twinkle, little star. Have you ever wished space could be where you are?

Capt. Jeff Ashby, chief of mission assurance for Blue Origin, painted a picture of how—what seems like such an unattainable dream to many—could become a reality. He spoke Oct. 25 as part of the Union Pacific Business and Industry Series funded through the Laramie County Community College Foundation.

For those who have the desire to explore the cosmos outside Earth’s atmosphere one of the biggest questions they have is, what is going on in space, and how soon can I get there? According to astronaut Ashby, “We had at one point planned that we would have a permanent lunar colony, and that plan has gone by the wayside with NASA.”

At this point if your life long dream has been to go the moon you, might feel as though all hope is lost. Don’t fret yet. Just because NASA is no longer making trips to the moon, it doesn’t mean no else is. Google has begun a competition called the Google X Prize. “Google is a private company obviously, that has offered $30 million to the first company that can launch a spacecraft to the moon, land it, drive it 500 meters and send high-definition video back.” Ashby said

To infinity and beyond

If your aspirations take you farther than the moon, Mars is another option. Although humans have yet to make it to Mars, progress is still being made. Two rovers are currently on the planet continuously sending back pictures. Along with two space crafts in orbit that help to continually gather data.

“Some people say it is very inhospitable or inhabitable, and I say, well, you know, that is from the point of view of someone who likes to go outside and garden,” Ashby said.

Mars may not be pretty, but it does have resources like water and a very thin atmosphere composed of methane. Every two years Mars comes within 60 million miles of Earth. This means if the fastest shuttle were used, it would take six months to get to Mars.

When humans make it to Mars, they will have to decide whether they want to spend two weeks on the foreign planet, or take the ride around the sun spending 18 months there. Because NASA has no intention of sending people to Mars, a private company, Space X, has announced it would like to launch a spacecraft to the planet in the near future. This means it a private company maybe sending the first people to the red planet.

Jupiter is not a suitable option for humans because the weight of the gravitational pull would crush our bodies. However, Jupiter has several moons that are closer to Earth’s size that have the potential for exploration as well as the possibility that resources could be extracted.

Fly yourself to the cosmos

So, with no company ready to go anywhere in space, how does this work? It may seem as though you would be all dressed up with nowhere to go. However, there is a lot to be experienced by simply exiting and re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. “If you want to stay in space you have to get ripping around the planet, really moving, at 17,500 mph, and then what happens is centrifugal force balances gravity, and you begin coasting,” Ashby said.

Suborbital flights take you out of Earth’s atmosphere and allow the gravity to pull you back to Earth. At the present time this is the safest and most cost-effective manner of human space travel.

Displaying a price tag of only $200,000 compared to the $40 million, it would take for other methods. Suborbital space travel will allow participants four minutes of weightlessness and a view of the Earth from space. This method of travel will become available to the public within the next decade.