“If you look at Branson’s spacecraft, it really creates a transportation system that is very similar to a commercial airline. You will take off at the airport and you will land at the airport, ”says Lugo.
Bezos is what most aeronautical engineers would call a more traditional approach to manned crews, Lugo says. The entire launch and re-entry of Blue Origin took about 10 minutes. The crew was launched from a capsule attached to the nose of the rocket, which detached and returned to Earth as the crew capsule continued into space, reaching a maximum altitude of 351,210 feet before falling to the ground, and then parachuted the ground.
Regardless of their differences, experts say, both flights represent major milestones in the future of spaceflight.
“These vehicles are re-imagining travel just as the pioneers of early aircraft did,” he says Elaine Petro, Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at Cornell.
In addition to bringing humans closer to orbit, Petro said, both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin could advance new approaches to faster intercontinental travel, as both vehicles can reach speeds four to five times faster than a regular plane.
Petro is encouraged by the pace of progress she has seen in the industry. “Ten years ago, the Obama administration advocated expanding the commercial launch vehicle industry. Now, two public space passenger platforms have been flying to crews in the last week, and SpaceX has been contracted to transport astronauts to the moon, ”she says.
And what’s next for Blue Origin? Although commercial space tourism is just beginning, Bezos hopes launching more flights could bring down cost so that in the next few decades everyone may have the opportunity to experience the beauty of life above Earth.