Do space tourists really understand the risks they take?
SpaceX’s all civilian inspiration4 astronauts, They have just finished their historic three-day space trip
the four private astronauts in SpaceX’s inspiration 4 mission – the first all civilian crew member ever to fly into space – seemed very relaxed the day before the rocket was about to launch on September 15. They were looking forward to sitting in the space capsule and rushing into space at the top of the rocket filled with explosive fuel
Jared Isaacman, a technology entrepreneur who funded the mission and served as the commander, said that the crew would take fighter planes during training. During this period, the risk of fighter accidents may be higher
he said: “in the past few days, fighters have thrown us into the sky again and again. I think this risk is higher than this mission. Therefore, we feel good when we are crowded in the narrow capsule of the Dragon spacecraft in space.”
but how high is the risk of death during the space mission? Phil McAllister, NASA’s commercial aerospace director, said that compared with the last few years when NASA’s space shuttle had not been retired, the safety of SpaceX’s manned dragon spacecraft was about three times higher. In fact, due to the safety inspection and the improvement of safety awareness, NASA space shuttle was the safest at that time
McAllister said: “we can combine some additional technologies. The Dragon spacecraft system has flight abort capability that we do not have. All this increases the possibility of successful mission execution.”
but what does this mean? Terry Hamlin, technical director of space shuttle probabilistic risk assessment at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, mentioned in 2011 that in the early stage, the risk of space shuttle crash was very high, and one of the nine missions would fail
when the space shuttle retired in 2011, NASA lost two space shuttles in a catastrophic accident, and the risk of failure was one tenth of the original, that is, only one failure in 90 missions. With such data, assuming McAllister’s inference is correct, the probability of catastrophic accident in inspiration 4 is about one in 300. (in fact, NASA has carried out 135 space shuttle missions, with only two fatal accidents, the Challenger accident in 1986 and the Columbia tragedy in 2003.)
according to the data of the National Security Council, the average lifetime risk of dying in an air crash in the United States is 1 / 205552; On the other hand, in the United States, the lifetime risk of dying in a car accident is 1 in 107
even so, many experts warn that the space tourism industry is undergoing unprecedented changes, which may increase the probability of space tourists dying in plane crashes
crew members of the first suborbital manned mission of blue origin
Tomaso scoba, executive director of the International Association for the promotion of space safety (iaass) and former head of flight safety of the European Space Agency (ESA), said: “the problem is that the current space tourism industry has neither government safety regulation nor their own regulation. They also have no historical record to prove that their technology is safe.”
no modern electrical appliances or equipment – from hair dryers and microwave ovens to cars, aircraft and roller coasters – must first be certified by an independent body to prove that its design meets independently set safety standards before it can be put on the market. These certifications are designed to ensure that efforts have been made to minimize the risk of these technologies harming users and that people independent of the company also believe that these technologies are safe
but the US Congress suspended the safety regulations enacted in 2004, which means that the responsibilities of space tourism companies are smaller than you think
Joseph Kohler, systems director of the Aerospace Center for space policy and strategy, said: “After some very successful lobbying by the space industry, the suspension of safety regulations is to enable the industry to learn and progress. The law stipulates that the focus should be on the development of best practices and voluntary standards that may eventually lead to the implementation of regulation. However, so far, there are few problems that can be solved.”
at present, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Commercial space companies are required to prove that their operations will not affect the ground (or airspace) However, the FAA spokesman told reporters in an e-mail that the agency did not supervise the safety of flight participants, nor did it prove that the launch and return of spacecraft to earth were safe for mankind.
FAA public affairs expert Steve Kulm wrote in the e-mail: “Under federal law, FAA’s commercial space transportation oversight responsibilities are designed to protect the safety of the ground public and other members of the public using the National Airspace System – not individuals in spacecraft. In fact, Congress has prohibited FAA from regulating the safety of crew or space participants. In addition, Congress has not authorized FAA to certify that spacecraft can safely carry out manned launch and return Return to Earth mission. ”
however, kurm added that the company must prove that their technology can operate safely during the test flight in order to obtain the FAA’s manned license.
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson is aboard spacecraft 2 During the launch of “VSS unity”, she experienced weightlessness in the cabin like superman.
Karina Driss is the president of the commercial aerospace Federation representing space travel companies. She said that early regulation may stifle innovation in emerging fields and hinder the development of best technologies. “I think that’s what many people are worried about. If the regulation is implemented too early, the best technology may not appear. The vehicles designed today are very different from each other. However, if we regulate any style, some designs may not appear in the market.”
therefore, today’s space tourists will sign an informed consent form stating anything that may happen during their mission.
Dreis said: “this is what makes this country (the United States) One of the reasons for becoming great: you can make your own choice. Americans can choose to go scuba diving, which is not strictly regulated. They can also choose skydiving, elective surgery, etc. all of these are subject to the same type of informed consent requirements. ”
on December 7, 1903, the flyer 1 controlled by Orville Wright conducted its first power flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
tombstone technology of early aviation
Daniel Bernstein, chief director of the federal program of aerospace companies, said that the situation in the field of commercial manned space is actually very similar to that in the early decades of the aviation industry.
Bernstein said: “When the Wright brothers finally invented the aircraft and entered the early 1920s and 1920s, we didn’t have many commercial flights, more military flights or exploratory flights. But by the end of the 20th century, commercial flights were more common. However, there was still not much supervision at that time. Therefore, accidents also occurred from time to time.” The methods adopted by
early aviation pioneers were sometimes described as flight repair flight. In Skoba’s words, “tombstone technology”.
said: “they will make machines, fly machines, wait for accidents, and then investigate accidents. If they find problems in technology, they will learn and solve problems from them.” He added that unlike early pilots, space travel companies did not develop technology from scratch. Government funded institutions (such as NASA or Roscosmos, the Russian space agency) are already managing and transferring items (and humans) Decades of experience in the risks associated with sending into space.
in a video recorded by the National Transportation Safety Commission on November 1, 2014, Virgin Galactic’s commercial space plane “spaceship II” The wreckage of SpaceShipTwo appeared in the Mojave desert. SpaceShipTwo disintegrated during the flight and crashed on October 31, killing one pilot and injuring another.
sgoba said: “Over the past four decades, the approach adopted by the aviation industry has focused on performance requirements and fault tolerance. For example, your design should never allow a single human error to lead to an entire disaster. However, if you look back on the Virgin Galactic accident in 2014, it is a disaster caused by a single human error.”
on October 31, 2014, Virgin Galactic’s first ship was called “enterprise” A fatal accident occurred during the test flight of the spaceship II, and the aircraft disintegrated during the rocket powered test flight. One pilot died and the other was seriously injured.
in the follow-up investigation, the National Transportation Safety Commission found that the accident of Virgin Galactic was caused by the premature opening of the plume tail of the spaceship II. The tail is used to pass through when the aircraft descends When the earth’s atmosphere slows down and stabilizes the plane.
Virgin Galactic has successfully completed its first manned space flight in the past July, and the crew includes Richard Branson, the company’s boss. However, VSS unity deviates from the previously approved track and enters the surrounding airspace during its return to the ground, or it can endanger ordinary people taking commercial flights.
this As a result of this incident, Virgin Galactic was basically grounded by the FAA until the end of the investigation. Therefore, Virgin Galactic had to suspend its second manned flight originally scheduled for the end of September or early October. At present, the company’s ticket price for each suborbital space trip is $450000 per person.
sgoba questioned that if space enthusiasts (and bored rich people) “I think that once civilians are hurt, the market for space travel will evaporate, just as the Concorde supersonic airliner will withdraw from the stage of history,” scoba said Concorde supersonic airliner is a luxury airliner from Paris to New York. However, once there is an accident, people are no longer interested in the luxury airliner. Although the company has solved the problem, the interest will disappear.
according to scobar, the Virgin Galactic space plane is essentially more dangerous than the new Shepard of blue origin or the Dragon spacecraft of SpaceX. Spaceship II is more dependent on human factors, and it can’t test fly without human pilots.
sgoba said: “Virgin Galactic has a bigger problem, because when safety critical mechanisms are in place, problems always exist. It can be the concept of helicopter or other aircraft; when you rely on large mobile parts to complete tasks, the safety risk is always higher. That doesn’t mean you can’t be safe