Initial reactions to the announcement that Bezos is going to take one of his Blue Origin Shepard rockets to outer space include excitement and enthusiasm, and yes – we’re all excited that commercial spaceflight has seen such a surge over the past few years. The more progress, the better, right?
As cool as it will be to see another manned rocket takeoff towards the stars, someone has to be the Dad speaking with a voice of reason.
There are two reasons that a crewed launch by Blue Origin might be too big of a risk to take:
- Passengers: The crew includes three civilian passengers – people that have not been formally trained as astronauts.
- Launch Vehicle: Blue Origin spacecraft has not yet carried humans, and has only done 16 flights total, launching only once in all of 2020. By contrast, SpaceX has done over a hundred launches, yet doesn’t expect to have its first civilian flight until 2023.
As much as we all want to see space travel rocket us into the future and beyond, it is important to take things one step at a time.
The last thing that anyone wants to happen is for someone to get injured or worse on a mission to space that is largely a vanity stunt.
There have been tragic incidents in spaceflight in the past. The tragedy of the Challenger spacecraft killed seven astronauts in 1986. In addition to grievances over the loss of loved ones, the macro impact of this horrific event resulted in a major setback to the crewed space program and suspension of the Shuttle program for 32 months. This horrible loss may have ultimately contributed to slowed progress in space travel overall.
The small risk that something goes wrong on a manned mission would leave a sour taste in the mouths of space fans across the globe, and could even cause stagnation in space technology progress.
In an age of autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, it is a tremendous risk to launch living humans on a rocket unless the technology is advanced enough or it is absolutely necessary. Since the rocket is fully autonomous, why not let it perform a few more test launches to ensure it is re-tested and 1000% safe?
Assuming the technology is mature enough for manned space travel (it surely is), there’s just so many other things Blue Origin could do – like, work on getting to Mars, and perhaps start getting things setup for a propellant production facility there. Human flight will have its heyday, but we should focus on industrial and non-human cargo first. Life is precious.
On the other hand, I get the need to publicize the progress in space travel technology. The more eyeballs that are following space travel, the better. Bezos’ launch is extremely inspirational, and will definitely draw more attention means more interest, which could correspond to spaceflight companies raising more money for R&D, etc.
And for a hefty sum of $2.8 billion dollars, you could join the Bezos on their Super Space Bro’s mission to the stratosphere.
Look – this post sure can’t stop Bezos from going to space. I’ll be crossing my fingers and cheering him on, but it does make many of us nervous.
What do you think? Would you go?