This week, an Australian physicist and engineer will boldly go where far few have gone before, blowing up into space aboard Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space capsule.
Former NASA engineer Dr. Chris Boshuizen becomes the third Australian to fly into space. And when he rises this week, he will not be alone.
Traveling with him for the short flight will be 90-year-old William Shatner, who played Star Trek captain James T. Kirk.
Dr. Boshuizen said that spaceflight is an important part of the evolution of humanity, and he believes that humanity will eventually be able to live and work in space.
“It’s a future I’ve always believed in … and I want to see that happen,” said Dr. Boshuizen to RN Breakfast.
So is he nervous about blowing up?
“Oh, absolutely,” he said.
“I’m sitting on top of a giant tank of hydrogen. Who wouldn’t it be?”
The trip is short and takes a total of about 15 minutes.
“We actually get to space really, really fast. It takes about four minutes to walk about 100 kilometers, which is pretty fast,” he said.
“Then we have about four minutes of weightlessness, and then we fall down on parachutes, which also takes about five minutes.”
He cannot wait to see the Earth from space.
“I want to be just one of 600 people in the entire history of the approximately 10 billion people who have ever lived who have seen that view,” he said.
Safer and more reliable
Dr. Boshuizen grew up in Tumbarumba in the Snowy Mountains, NSW, and dreamed of getting out into space. He studied physics and mathematics at the University of Sydney before moving to the United States.
He worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and one of his projects was a Hover Test Vehicle, an early attempt at a lower lunar lander.
During his time at NASA, he was involved in more than 50 rocket launches, and he said he was pleased that the Blue Origin launch will be safe.
“I’ve seen the good and the bad and the ugly in that industry. And you know rockets are not as safe as airplanes yet.
“But one of the nice things about this new generation of rockets, Blue Origins’ New Shepard and SpaceX’s Falcon Nine, is that they were reusable. And this will not be the first flight of this rocket.
“And like an airplane, we would not throw an airplane out after we flew at once. I think these new rockets are safer and more reliable because they are designed to be recycled.”
What does it cost?
Dr. Boshuizen was tight on how much his trip cost, and refused to give a ballpark figure.
“It’s a little expensive, I will admit.”
But he claims that the price of getting out of Earth’s orbit is falling.
“Pretty soon it will be affordable for many, many people.”
“The most significant thing about this event, which I want to share with people, is to let them know that prices are going to fall and they can actually go,” he said.
He admits that prices right now are out of reach for most of us.
“I kind of think it’s like the opening night of a show.
“If you’re going to the opening night with all the celebrities, tickets are expensive. But a few weeks later, the show is the normal price.
“I’m going into the expensive phase of opening up space travel.”
Traveling with William Shatner
Dr. Boshuizen described himself as a “lifelong” Star Trek fan and said Mr Shatner has inspired many scientists to explore the universe.
“He’s an ambassador for space,” he said.
“Through his character on Star Trek, William Shatner [was] a good role model for a bright future that I hope we can move towards. “
“I think all the things Star Trek ever stood for, you know, the peaceful exploration of space, [non-interference] Prime Directive, the fact that this society was very egalitarian.
“I think those are all values that we can strive for.”
Looking for billionaires?
Dr. Boshuizen defended the efforts of billionaires, including the efforts of Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson to expand space exploration.
“There’s been a lot of talk about it being fun rides for billionaires, and I can see that criticism, and I think it’s fair,” he said.
“[But] when I think of early balloon pioneers or the Wright brothers, even Robert Goddard [credited with creating and building the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket], famous New York Times criticized Goddard, saying there is no way rockets could possibly work.
“So I think when new things come up in science technology, we’re often skeptical of them. billionaires. “
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