Space travel a dream for many in UAE

Sarwat Nasir/Dubai
Filed on September 19, 2018 | Last updated on September 19, 2018 at 07.33 am

A Japanese billionaire has become the first private passenger to fly to the moon through SpaceX.

Space fanatics in the UAE are now hopeful that they will travel to the moon once in their lifetime. Their ambitious goal was set after the world's first private passenger to fly around the moon was announced by SpaceX on Tuesday.

The passenger is Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who is the 18th richest man in Japan and has a $2.9 billion fortune, according to Forbes. He is the founder of Zozo, which is the largest online fashion retailer in Japan. The trip is set to take place in 2023 onboard SpaceX's spacecraft, called BFR.

Amir Abdou, a 17-year-old student at the Jumeirah English Speaking School, believes space travel could now be possible in his lifetime.

"Would I like to explore space? That's a definite yes, it's been my dream. And should space travel become more affordable? It would be great if more people had the opportunity to explore space. However, a more affordable price would mean that less money can be put into research. However, in my opinion space travel should, and will eventually be more affordable," Abdou told Khaleej Times.

An aerospace engineering student in Dubai, Mohammad Mansoor, 22, also dreams of travelling beyond Earth's boundaries one day. Once the costs for the flights drop, Mansoor will be purchasing his tickets that will take him out of this planet.

"It is my dream to go out in space and see those stars blinking and fly around in zero gravity. I'm also curious as to how astronauts maintain their lifestyle. It would be a wonderful experience," Mansoor said.

"Since the first commercial space astronaut in 2001, which cost around $20 million, the idea of affordable space travel sounds fascinating. If investments are made regularly, which increase competition, I'm sure the day is not far when space travel tickets are as cheap as air travel tickets."

Hemanth Reddy Nalakonda, a 21-year-old aerospace engineering student, is another potential space tourist.He said the masses should experience zero gravity at least once in their lifetime.

"It would inspire a new generation into engineering and space sciences and maybe one day successfully establish a new colony in space," he said.

"The idea of space tourism is what inspired the origin of companies such as Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin. It opens a new dimension to the space industry. It also accelerates research and investment into it, which is greatly beneficial to science and mankind, in one way or the other. When it becomes accessible, I would love to go suborbital and enjoy the view of our blue planet amid the vast expanse. It really puts us into a new perspective; a lonely planet in an infinite universe."

Feni Pandya, another aerospace engineering student, said: "Most of us enjoy travelling and what better than to set foot where not many have been. But with our current technology, the prices mentioned are defined as 'affordable'. It has been my dream since I was a little girl to be able to travel into space and not just the Low Earth Orbit but to travel to faraway lands."

Space tourism has been a major focus for private space companies as advanced technology emerges. However, tickets to ride the developing commercial spacecrafts remain significantly high. Though, experts believe costs will drop in a few decades.

Prices will come down in 15 years, says official

Commercial space travel could become affordable in the next few decades as necessary technology becomes more accessible, an official in the UAE's space industry has said.

The comments follow the announcement that a Japanese billionaire has become the first private passenger to fly to the moon through SpaceX.

The ticket price to ride the BFR - the spacecraft that will go to the moon - is currently unknown, though, the development of the spacecraft alone is estimated at billions of dollars.

"I believe as more and more commercial companies enter the market, prices will come down and it will be more accessible," assistant director-general of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and manager of the UAE Astronaut Programme, Salem Al Marri, told Khaleej Times.

"Starting with suborbital flights first, I think, they could become more accessible but costly in the coming 15 years. With regards to orbital flights, pricing will remain high for a while due to technology constraints and dangers of orbital flights."

Earlier this year, former Nasa astronaut Mike Massimino told Khaleej Times: "The first few people that are going to go, are going to pay a lot. When a new technology comes out, it's expensive. But if you want it to be successful, you have to make it affordable. I think it's their goal for tourism. With what SpaceX has been able to do, and other companies like Blue Origin, they'll surely be able to fly people to space with paying customers and tourists. They can't charge people a million dollars to go to space. Only a few people can pay that. So they'll have to bring the price down and I think they will." Massimino, is the first person to tweet from space.

Tickets to the International Space Station for each astronaut - depending on from which country - is priced at more than $30 million. Tickets for Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic cost between $200,000 and $250,000.

Why space tourism is focused on moon, not Mars?

 The owner of the Al Sadeem Astronomy in Abu Dhabi, Thabet Al Qaissieh, told Khaleej Times that space flights should be accessible to the masses.

He said space experts are focusing on moon travel again because it is closer to earth than Mars.

The moon is about 400,000km away versus Mars, which is around 55 million kilometres away, he said.

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