Sixty years ago, space travel existed only in science-fiction novels. Today, astronauts have landed on the moon and lived in space for more than a year. What will the future hold for travel to the farthest reaches of our solar system?
People with money to spare can go on a week-long visit to the International Space Station.
Do you have 20 million dollars to spare? That's the current price for a one-week stay at the International Space Station. So far, at least five people have paid to experience life in space. Soon there'll be numbers of them. You don't have to be an astronaut to go on space. Like astronauts, the tourists must prepare for their trip, spending several months training. In the years to come, more and more people will visit space. There is even talk of developing space hotels, where tourists could vacation and take spacewalks.
A spacecraft's weight is about 95 percent rocket fuel, making long distance space flight extremely expensive. But what if there were way to reduce the amount of fuel harnessing the sun's energy to propel spacecraft once they reach space? Engineers are experimenting with solar-sail powered craft. Such a craft , made of lightweight, reflective material, would use sunlight as its power. Light particles bouncing off the reflective sail would push the craft forward at a faster and faster speed. A solar sail, however, would not be able to reach space on its own. It would need a traditional rocket to launch it. Once in space, though, the sail would have endless power from the sun and could travel indefinitely.
Engineers are developing an elevator to send people into space without rockets! The space elevator would let a spacecraft climb a cable into the sky. Made of a paper-thin yet incredibly strong and flexible material, a ribbon-shaped cable would reach more than 60,000 miles into space where it would end at a platform. The bottom of the cable would be anchored in the ocean. People and cargo would ride up the elevator on mechanical lifters. Once at the top, they would board a traditional spacecraft and zoom off to their final destination.