Jeff Bezos and other space travelers fly at their own risk


Jeff Bezos

Boarding a New Shepard capsule for his first passenger trip to space next month, his safety is almost entirely in the hands of the space flight company he founded 20 years ago.

Mr. Bezos Plan to join a small band of tourists who flew in space Just as emerging industries are preparing to launch hundreds of people into the air. So far, they are not protected by the meticulous safety regulations of the federal government that governs private air travel.

Passengers planning to board New Shepard must sign a form that waives Mr. Bezos’ right to sue Blue Origin LLC in the event of an accident.Richard Branson’s

Virgin Galactic Holdings Co., Ltd.

SPCE 2.45%

We plan to get paid passengers on board the spacecraft early next year, but similar measures are needed.

Congress agreed in 2004 that the space travel industry would self-regulate to expedite flight preparation for airliners.Years of delay, including accidents Killed Virgin Galactic test pilot in 2014, Postponed the start of the fare-paying passenger flight. This policy has been extended several times and is now in effect until October 2023.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said the Federal Aviation Administration’s jurisdiction is limited to protecting public safety and the environment during launch and re-entry. “Parliament does not allow the FAA to extend its authority to the safety of crew and space flight participants,” a spokesman said.

Regulators, lawmakers and industry executives are discussing whether to introduce stricter rules, such as requiring passengers to undergo rigorous training to reach the edge of space. Companies have already provided some training for short flights, including periods of high G-force and the potential for disorientation associated with weightlessness.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic say they follow rigorous testing and safety standards in preparation for the sale of tickets. Analysts expect the cost of the flight to be $ 500,000 for a short ascent and descent, including a few minutes of weightlessness. Blue Origin has a flight time of approximately 10 minutes. Virgin Galactic takes more than two hours because the spacecraft is launched from an airplane that must first climb to high altitude.

Bezos will conclude his flight scheduled for July 20th with his brother Mark Bezos and the winner of the charity auction on Saturday.

To date, more than 6,000 bidders from 143 countries have participated in the auction, according to Blue Origin. The highest bid was $ 4 million Thursday morning. The company, like Virgin Galactic, hasn’t commented on future ticket prices.

According to Blue Origin, passengers need to climb about seven steps to the top of the company’s launch tower, reach it in 90 seconds, and fit in a spacesuit. In addition, passengers do not need to undergo a medical examination prior to flight and will refer to their doctor if they have any health concerns. Virgin Galactic officials said flight preparation included medical consultations.

Companies offer 2-3 days of training. Virgin Galactic preparation includes time with pilots, weightlessness instruction, and cabin mockups. The company offers passengers optional flight on aircraft that simulates weightlessness and centrifuge flight that reproduces some of the forces that astronauts experience during flight.

According to Blue Origin, traveling on a spacecraft requires minimal training. “This is to understand the safety features and preparations for traveling into space on a fully autonomous New Shepard rocket,” a spokeswoman said.

The cost of launching into space means that in-flight testing of rockets and capsules is much less than on commercial aircraft. Sent in thousands of hours of test flight Before carrying paid customers.

Virgin Galactic’s test program collapsed during flight in 2014, killing test pilots. Accident investigators attributed the crash to a design flaw by Scaled Composites LLC. The company that made the spaceship, Pilot mistakes can lead to accidents.

A Virgin Galactic spokeswoman said Virgin Galactic took over the design and manufacture of the spacecraft.

Aside from the risks associated with spacecraft, some passengers will probably experience more serious medical problems than the ear effects commonly seen on airline flights, astronauts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Dr. Jeffrey Jones, an aviation surgeon who has worked with him, said: Many people vomit when they first encounter zero gravity, and passengers are injured if they are not properly anchored when gravity returns. He said it could be.

“Passengers are part of the safety system. We need to know what’s going to happen,” said Blue Sky Flight Training LLC, who has helped dozens of astronauts prepare for space. , David Allen said.

Star Tours

Other WSJ articles on commercial space travel selected by the editor.

Write to Matt Grossman And Doug Cameron

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Jeff Bezos and other space travelers fly at their own risk

Source link Jeff Bezos and other space travelers fly at their own risk

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