INDIA. Mumbai: The Nehru Science Centre, Mumbai in association with the Aeronautical Society of India, Mumbai Branch organised an online lecture on ‘Space Tourism: The Next Frontier’ on 27 July 2021. Dr. Punita Masrani, Aerospace Medicine Specialist, V. M. Medical Centre, Mumbai delivered the lecture and discussed various aspects of commercial space travel, and said that the concept of Space tourism or commercial space travel is not new. ‘Space tourism is the space travel for recreational, leisure of business purposes. Space Tourism has been in news recently because of two billionaires, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos who went into space as tourists using their personal rocket and aircraft’ cited Dr. Punita.
In the lecture, Dr. Punita said that earlier NASA and the Russian Space Agency started taking tourists for space travel. It was exorbitant and the process was stringent. Russian Soyuz spacecraft used to take tourists every 6 months. ‘Space Adventures was the first agency in the field of Space Tourism. The agency was started by US billionaire Richard Garriot in 1998. The agency offered brokered rides aboard the Russian Soyuz Rockets’ Dr. Punita informed.
Dr. Punita said, while, both NASA and the Russian Space Agency halted space tourism, industrialists and entrepreneurs thought they could start private missions so that more and more people could travel to space. This gave birth to the concept of Space tourism.
Private space travelers will have to go through stringent selection standards, extensive training, and adopted measures to counteract challenges. Dr. Punita also discussed in detail the various companies that are working in the field of private space travel: Blue Origin was established in 2000 by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Blue Origin’s reusable rocket New Shepard successfully completed its first human flight recently with four private citizens onboard. The crew included Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen. The rocket New Shephard took off on 20 July 2021 from West Texas, United States.
SpaceX is an American aerospace manufacturer, founded in 2002 by Elon Musk of Tesla Motors. The company has developed the Dragon Spacecraft which was used by NASA astronauts to go to the International Space Station. Space X is planning to send citizens to the International Space Station on a 10-day paid trip. Space X is also planning trips to the moon and Mars.
Virgin Galactic was established in 2004 by the British entrepreneur Richard Branson. Richard Branson and his crew recently reached more than 50 miles above the New Mexico desert aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket plane and safely returned to earth.
Dr. Punita informed that while all these missions just offer a ride to space, NASA recently has allowed taking private citizens to the International Space Station for a short visit. Companies like Axiom Space are involved in the training of private astronauts. The company is also planning a Private Space station in the future.
DR. Punita discussed the science involved and risk, awareness, concerns, and medical informed consent which are essential parts of tourism. She further explained what could be possible post-flight medical problems or conditions and the impact of space travel on the human body and brain.
Nehru Science Centre (NSC) is one of the largest science centers in India and a landmark place for the students in the Western Region of the country. It is the western zonal headquarters of the National Council of Science Museums and governs and coordinates the activities of five other science centers in Western Region viz: Raman Science Centre, Nagpur, Regional Science Centre, Bhopal, Regional Science Centre, Calicut, Goa Science Centre, Panaji and District Science Centre, Dharampur. NSC receives over 7.5 lakh visitors a year and has proved itself to be one of the prime attraction centers and a center of excellence in enhancing the understanding of science and in imparting scientific temper in the country.
National Council of Science Museums, the apex body of Science Centers and Science Museums in India, functions under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India as an autonomous scientific organisation. It coordinates the activities of 25 Science Centres across the country. The council also organises nationwide scientific events and activities for the school students, the National Science Seminar, National Science Drama Contest, and Science Expo, etc. The Council serves about 10 million visitors which includes 25% of students, through its interactive galleries in various science centers and 22 traveling Museum Buses for rural areas and other events and activities.