Monday, June 26, 2023

What will we have accomplished in space by 2033?

There are a lot of things I’m waiting for in the long quest to turn humanity into a spacefaring civilization.  I made a list over four years ago of four things I’m waiting for, and so far we’ve accomplished one.  One is a few years away from being done, one is more than a decade away, and the other, who knows if it will be accomplished.  But I was thinking about all of this the other day, and I wondered what will we likely accomplish in the next decade.  This is what I came up with.

Suborbital tourist flights will probably be finished.

For years, the idea of suborbital tourist flights excited me and I truly thought that – even though the common folk could never afford them – they would excite the public about space.  But it took so long for these companies to get flying, that I figure the industry is DOA.  People will still fly, but instead of the expected hundreds of people a year, it will probably only be dozens.  And the next accident – especially if passengers die – will ground the entire industry.  There will still be suborbital flights for experiments, and maybe once a blue moon they’ll brave the paperwork to have a technician along with the experiments, but I expect by 2033 suborbital tourism will be in the history books.

Private space stations.

One factor against suborbital tourism will be orbital tourism.  Yes, orbital tourism will be 1,000X as expensive as suborbital tourism, but you’ll get a 10,000X greater experience.  And the best place to go for orbital tourism will be a private space station.  Now, the ISS is great, but it’s not a hotel.  It’s a stinky laboratory filled with people doing various experiments.  To really get your space tourism money’s worth, you’d want a purpose-built hotel with large windows to view the Earth and space, and sound-proof cabins to join the 200-mile-high club.

But private space stations won’t just be hotels.  Some could be other laboratories, or even new businesses.  I can easily imagine robotic tugs bringing broken satellites to a space station where astronauts fix and upgrade them before returning them to service. 

Landing on the moon.

The biggest thing that will likely happen in the next decade will be humans returning to the moon.  By 2033 there may only be two or three landings, but they might be from two different programs, which will be fantastic.  And hopefully these won’t just be flags and footprints missions, but ones that start building a permanent presence on the moon. 


Unlike what seems to be a majority of space people, I’m not that interested in human exploration of Mars.  Yes, we’ll do it someday, but unlikely in my lifetime.  The main reason, is that I’ve long maintained that while we are 100X better prepared to go to the moon now than we were in the 1960’s, going to Mars is 200X more complicated than going to the moon.  Any rush to get a crewed mission to Mars in the next decade will, in my humble opinion, be doomed to fail.  In fact, a successful, crewed mission to Mars by 2043 is probably overly optimistic.


So, those are my thoughts.  Do you agree or disagree with them?

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