Reports have revealed, including those from the BBC, that Blue Origin—Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight services company—is planning to take yet another step into the world of space tourism. Leaders from Blue Origin announced, at a press conference held on Monday 25 October, plans to create a commercial space station. And it’s thought to come sooner than you’d think.
The commercial space station, named ‘Orbital Reef’, is hoped to be in operation by the end of the decade. In marketing material released by the spacecraft company, the proposed station is described as a “mixed-use business park” in space and will be able to host up to ten people (a volume almost as big as the International Space Station [ISS])—you really can do remote work from anywhere these days. Orbital Reef is set to be built in low Earth orbit and will offer budding consumers an opportunity for research and tourism, says Blue Origin.
“The station will open the next chapter of human space exploration and development by facilitating the growth of a vibrant ecosystem and business model for the future,” it added.
“Seasoned space agencies, high-tech consortia, sovereign nations without space programs, media and travel companies, funded entrepreneurs and sponsored inventors, and future-minded investors all have a place on Orbital Reef,” the company further noted. Someone might be left out of the loop however—I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Elon Musk’s invitation got lost in the space mail.
Blue Origin’s initiative will be conducted in collaboration with Boeing and Sierra Space (backed by Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions and Arizona State University), both of which will contribute in building the space station by providing human and cargo transportation to the commercial station. Not only will the 32,000 square feet station be used as an ideal rest stop for Blue Origin customers but it will also offer an optimal location for “film-making in microgravity” as well as including a “space hotel.” Don’t worry, the hotel comes with a view.
Orbital Reef announced that its station will have large Earth-facing windows so that space tourists can “take in the beauty of our planet” and “experience the thrill of weightlessness in complete comfort.” At the press conference announcing the venture, both Blue Origin and Sierra Space declined to provide an estimate of the building costs—though we must assume it’s going to cost a pretty penny.
This proposal seems to come at the perfect time as NASA searches for options to replace the 20-year-old ISS; Boeing vice president and programme manager for the ISS John Mulholland said in a statement on the proposed commercial station, “This is exciting for us because this project does not duplicate the immensely successful and enduring ISS, but rather goes a step further to fulfil the unique position in low Earth orbit where it can serve a diverse array of companies and host non-specialist crews.”
NASA’s newest administrator Bill Nelson suspects that humans are not alone in the universe as reported by Quartz. With the multiverse and simulation theories alone, not to mention the actual evidence of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) reported earlier this year, is anyone really surprised? What might surprise you however, is Nelson’s open-minded acknowledgement and acceptance of the above and how he stressed the importance of searching for extraterrestrial life in NASA’s future explorations.
“My personal opinion is that the universe is so big, and now, there are even theories that there might be other universes. If that’s the case, who am I to say that planet Earth is the only location of a life form that is civilised and organised like ours?” he stated in an interview with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics last week, speaking to Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the college. Nelson continued, “Are there other planet Earths out there? I certainly think so.”
Speaking on UFO sightings, the head of NASA—who himself travelled to space in 1986—shared that Navy pilots had reported hundreds of sightings since 2004 alone. Though the US government has been extremely cautious with listing these as evidence of alien life, Nelson raised eyebrows when suggesting these UFOs have a connection to alien technology. “I’ve talked to those pilots and they know they saw something, and their radars locked on to it,” he told the audience, continuing, “And they don’t know what it is. And we don’t know what it is. We hope it’s not an adversary on Earth that has that kind of technology.”
Nelson, who was sworn in for the role in May 2021, went on to explain that while it’s unclear, “it’s something.” “And so this is a mission where we’re constantly looking at, ‘What, who is out there? Who are we? How did we get here? How did we become as we are? How did we develop? How did we civilise?’ And are those same conditions out there in a universe that has billions of other suns in billions of other galaxies—it’s so large I can’t conceive it.”
Although Nelson is unable to provide us with any solid answers as of right now, what he does offer us is a pledge that NASA’s future work will invest in uncovering and answering those questions, “What do you think we’re doing on Mars? We’re looking for life. This is a part of NASA’s mission,” he said. Unlike the likes of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, the leader of the space group highlighted that the exploration of the universe should not detract from the importance of looking after the planet we already have.
“I’ll tell you what that [exploration] makes me think. I’d better be a better steward of what we have, because we’re messing it up, and we’re messing it up just the way we’re treating each other.” He continued, “So I know what my mission is, to be a better steward of this planet and be a better citizen of planet Earth.”