Imagine travelling from New York to Shanghai in 40 minutes or from Hong Kong to Singapore in 22 minutes. This may be possible within the next 15 to 20 years, said Jean-Francois Clervoy, a European Space Agency astronaut and veteran of three NASA Space Shuttle missions.
Clervoy believes that given the developments in sub-orbital travel technologies and the fascination with space travel, we may witness such drastic improvements within our lifetime.
“It is interesting to observe that when very rich people wonder about what to do with their money, the first idea coming to their mind is space travel. Most of them have become rich thanks to their successful entrepreneurship. Therefore we can expect that following the fulfilling of their own dream, their next step will be to develop businesses based on space travel,” he said at the recent 10th APG World Connect Conference in Monaco.
Still, he qualified that it may be a good while more before space travel becomes accessible to the masses.
“Space travel is subject to universal laws of physics which makes it possible only with a huge amount of energy involved, making it necessarily more expensive and riskier than today’s regular air travel. I expect to see in my lifetime regular space flights for the privileged, rich individuals but mass space travel will likely come far later,” said Clervoy.
Moreover, beyond the technologies that will enable space travel, a great deal of work remains to be done in evaluating the practical needs that will arise.
“Due to its extreme conditions, space travel requires such a high level of excellence that it forces the aerospace industry to constantly challenge itself to get more efficient and safe.