177 Views

One small step forward for space travel, two giant crashes back

Last month saw two tragic incidents plague the commercial spaceflight industry. The first was Antares, an unmanned rocket sending supplies to the ISS, which exploded shortly after take-off.

Just days later, this was followed by the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. A catastrophic explosion nine miles above the Mojave Desert killing one pilot, seriously injured another and scattering debris for miles across the arid desert floor below.

Although unconnected, both disasters are a huge wake-up call to the fledgling industry and acts as a blunt reminder of the dangers involved in spaceflight. With eagerly anticipated predictions of the ability to book spaceflights just as easily as booking a flight to New York, it is fast becoming a reality that has been overloaded; space and space exploration is a risky business.

It is now over a decade since the last significant disaster to a manned spaceflight; when Columbia was destroyed during re-entry, killing seven astronauts and sending debris screaming across clear morning skies above Texas. Although the images of that day remain vivid, the lesson learned has long been forgotten. Success is not a given in this industry, and must not be taken for granted.

This message is all the more important for the companies affected by these latest disasters. While NASA has many decades of experience of spaceflight, commercial ventures, especially Virgin Galactic, have very little. Branson’s project has not even left the atmosphere since its inception ten years ago.

As a result, the public’s confidence in the ability of corporations to deliver a promise of safe commercial space travel will take a significant hit from these incidents, as well as dampening the optimism of those in the industry.

Some have come out against Virgin Galactic, claiming that this could be the fatal blow for the project following a series of setbacks and delays. Carolynne Campbell-Knight, an expert on rocket propulsion at the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety, went as far as suggesting Branson should “stay out of the space business”.

The impact on Branson’s project is hard to predict before the result of the investigation of the crash is revealed. However, it is widely accepted that, if the project continues, the first commercial flights won’t take place for at least five years. Regardless of whether Virgin Galactic collapses, the determination of others will continue, with several other companies also pursuing the same dream of commercial spaceflight and space tourism.

Competition is the thing that the space industry needs; the drive to make spacecraft more efficient will not only save cost, but also push the boundaries of science and technology. However, this must be conducted remembering that cutting corners will infringe on safety, which makes the stakes are much higher. This really is rocket science and the complexity of it must not be taken lightly.

What these two tragedies remind us is that safety must always be the priority in any space venture; commercial space travel won’t be as safe as commercial aviation for years, if not decades, to come. However, that is not a reason to abandon the industry altogether. The potential it has, particularly in the area of intercontinental space travel, is a worthy pursuit. As Art Dula, founder of spaceflight company Excalibur Almaz put it: “It would be a tragedy if we let this very unfortunate event stall or significantly delay development.”

It cannot be denied that these tragedies are a setback and could delay the development of the industry and scar its safety record, but the drive to make space accessible to everyone will continue. It should be remembered that even the Apollo missions suffered terrible tragedies in its infancy, but it went on to make incredible achievements. The world of commercial spaceflight will do the same.

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
929 views1
Campus News
929 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
255 views
Arts
255 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
268 views
Arts
268 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
253 views
Arts
253 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
309 views
Arts
309 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
319 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
288 views
Arts
288 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
271 views
Arts
271 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
409 views
Campus News
409 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
219 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
689 views
Arts
689 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
281 views
Arts
281 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
370 views
Artist Focus
370 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
285 views
Interview
285 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
351 views
Arts
351 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
406 views
Arts
406 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
427 views
Arts
427 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
334 views
Artist Focus
334 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
367 views
Books
367 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
464 views
Science
464 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
390 views
News
390 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…