How safe is space tourism?

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March 7 2007 12:32 PM

How safe is space tourism?

I recently wrote about Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic sub-orbital rocket plane, and described it somewhat romantically (both literally and figuratively). But how realistic is this dream of low-space tourism?

Jeff Bell's answer is: not very. He seems very cynical, and having read some of his past essays, I find he does come down on the dour side. But that doesn't negate his basic point: rocketplanes have a scary record, and the environment in which these vehicles are being developed is not going to guarantee their safety; Bell argues just the opposite will happen. I think that some of his points may be at the very least debatable; new materials and equipment that have been developed in recent years may make a big difference in safety margins.

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But I am no expert in this field, and we're still in the stage where both sides are hammering out their arguments. I'll continue to read about this with interest!

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!