– Bezos flies into space – is he risking his life?
In a few weeks, the Amazon founder will fly to the edge of space with his New Shepard rocket. Experts warn of the risks that the billionaire is taking on.
since 20 Years of workJeff Bezos and Richard Branson, to conquer space with their space companies Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. Elon Musk is also involved with his company SpaceX WRace into space with. Each of the multibillionaires wants their own first Board the spaceship and into spaceto fly. Bezos is coming now sa comrade-in-arms likely before. The Amazon founder announced on Monday, that he will take off with his New Shepard rocket in just a few weeks und fly to the limit of the earth’s atmosphere will.
EAlso on board: his brother Mark and four other passengers, made up of Blue Origin employees and the winner of an online auction. The current highest bid is $ 4.8 million, the auction ends on Saturday. DThe six-person crew relies on a spaceship that has already been successful several times for scientific experiments in lower earth orbit, but has never transported people. So what about safety on the first manned flight?
Bezos’ excursion into space is not an orbital, but a suborbital flight. That requires a much lower power and speed from the rocket – so it doesn’t have the power to reach orbit. Instead, in a suborbital flight, the rocket flies up to a certain altitude, which depends on its speed. As soon as the engines are switched off, it sinks again, attracted by the earth’s gravity.
Bezos’ rocket New Shepard hits loudly “CNN»About three times the speed of sound – around 3700 kilometers per hour – and will ascend around 100 kilometers. For comparison: the escape speed to leave the earth’s gravitational field is eleven kilometers per second. The New Shepard has a short flight ahead of her: the expensive excursion should take just eleven minutes.
The rocket flies in the direction of space until most of its fuel is used up. Then the capsule with the crew separates at the upper end of the missile’s trajectory and flies for a moment before hovering for a short time, giving the passengers a few minutes of weightlessness. It works like an extended version of the feeling you experience at the top of a roller coaster, just before gravity forces the cart – or in this case the capsule – back down.
Three parachutes then open to slow the descent of the New Shepard capsule to less than 20 miles per hour before it touches down at around 1 mile per hour in the Texas desert. The separately flying rocket, on the other hand, re-ignites its engines and uses its on-board computer to land precisely and upright.
Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has spent most of the past decade getting the New Shepard missile through a series of successful test flights. She has already survived 15 such unmanned flights without major incidents. A number of precautionary measures have been taken for the upcoming manned mission. Should the capsule lose pressure, passengers who do not have to wear special spacesuits have access to oxygen masks. The New Shepard is also equipped with a demolition system that, in an emergency, ejects the capsule with the passengers from the rocket. There are also safety precautions that allow the capsule to land gently even if not all of the parachutes open.
Nevertheless, the very first manned flight is not entirely safe. Experts point out that space travel is always riskyNo. «When you fly with people, it is always one step more complex than an unmanned mission, because you are concerned with life people must take care of», sayse Laura Forczyk, a specialized Consultant for the USSpace industry to «Wired». Actually have Blue Origin no reason to fear that something is wrong gmarriage – yes «man weiss no“Said Forczyk, die selber has already completed parabolic flights.
Passengers cannot steer
According to NASA astronauts, however, a short suborbital flight is very different from a trip to the International Space Station, for example. “Anyone who really understands this business knows that there is a huge difference between putting a spaceship into orbit and using it for a suborbital flight,” said NASA astronaut Doug Hurley. Not only do the lower speeds of suborbital flights reduce the risk, but also the significantly lower stress that orbital capsules have to withstand when re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.
Still – “None of this is easy,” says Hurley, who did the first last May together with his colleague Bob Behnken SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to the ISS brought. “We are demanding a lot from the spaceships to bring the crew back safely.”
The two new commercial missiles from Bezos and Branson are, according to Hurley, simpler to design and operate than the NASA spacecraft. Because although some NASA spaceships are automated, others require specially trained pilots who have to manually control docking with the ISS, for example. The New Shepard capsule, on the other hand, is one hundred percent automated. Even if they wanted to, the passengers could neither maneuver nor change course.
“As soon as the engines are fired, there is nothing that a human can do.”
“As soon as the engines are fired, there is nothing that a human can do,” said Garrett Reisman to “Wired”. According to the former space shuttle astronaut, the autopilot controls all the time. “You just watch and the software does everything,” says Reisman, who was involved in the development of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. This also applies to the concepts of Virgin Galactic. The simplicity of the designs also represents a safety advantage. In addition, the spaceships only have to work for about ten minutes.
No toilet on board, more security
In contrast to longer missions, there is no need to recycle wastewater or treat drinking water on the short space excursions. According to Reisman, there is also no toilet on board. Fewer systems also mean fewer things that can go wrong, Hurley said.
Nevertheless, both astronauts point out the dangers of space travel. The tragic crash of a Virgin Galactic rocket in 2014 shows that the less dangerous suborbital flights can also be fatal. A pilot’s maneuvering error led to the spaceship broke apart. One of the two pilots died, the second survived seriously injured. Branson’s space company has since conducted three successful test flights with a revised version of the Space Ship Two, but space travel remains a dangerous undertaking.