The future of low-cost, commercial space travel just got a whole lot brighter.
Blue Origin, a privately funded aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos, successfully took 25 customers on a short space trip last week aboard the company’s Crew Capsule 2.0 spacecraft. This was the seventh mission the company’s New Shepard rocket has flown and was aptly called Mission 7 (M7).
Blue Origin is known for being pretty secretive about the aerospace projects it undertakes, but M7 achieved a huge milestone by take carrying 12 commercial, research, and education experiments along with the customers.
This a lot like the experiments that are sent to the International Space Station (ISS), only to a much smaller degree. The flight only lasted 11 minutes and got as high as 100,000 kilometers in the air. During that time the customers experienced microgravity environments that astronauts would during take off. This allowed them to conduct some quick experiments in a low-gravity environment, something that’s hard to achieve down here on Earth.
Here are some of the experiments that were aboard M7:
Purdue University teamed up with an Elementary School in Indiana to answer a question asked by a second grade classroom: “Can fireflies light up in space?”
The payload launched a mixture of the same chemicals found inside of a firefly to see if microgravity would affect the way these chemicals normally light up.
When astronauts are launched into space the immense stress their body goes under might cause them to suffer a collapsed lung. If this happens they must immediately return to Earth because the devices to deal with this type of injuries do not function in microgravity environments.
The device during M7 would allow astronauts to treat a collapsed lung mid-space flight, saving a life and the mission. This was funded by NASA, developed by a team of engineers at Orbital Medicine Inc., and constructed by a team researchers at Purdue University.
This monitoring device constructed by the Johns Hopkins University physics lab would make more flight like M7 possible.
It collects data about the outside environment of suborbital space flights — so launches that breach the Earth’s atmosphere but don’t go into orbit — in order to see the type of stress levels crafts undergo when they undertake trip like this. Since suborbital flights might be the first type of commercial space travel this will provide crucial information for later iterations of these trips.