The rise of private-sector space exploration in recent years has led to an increased demand for so-called “space tourism” … and some firms are already developing plans they hope will result in the installation of hotels and other vacation amenities beyond our home planet’s atmosphere.
But aside from the generally prohibitive cost of such travel, there’s an even more important question that remains unanswered: Is it safe?
We need more data
So far, all we know about the effects of prolonged exposure to space comes from studying the relatively few astronauts who have spent extended periods away from Earth.
And the thought of sending ordinary folks out into the notoriously inhospitable reaches of space adds a new layer of danger.
Of course, the possibility of making tons of money from the space tourism market is sure to keep companies (and to a lesser extent, government entities like NASA) focused on building the infrastructure necessary to make it happen. That’s why it’s important to consider the most pressing problems that are likely to surface as this nascent industry takes shape.
- Resources: Even as many humans worry about depleting resources here on Earth, it’s important to note that virtually none of the necessities we take for granted will be easily accessible in space. From food to medicine to the very oxygen we breathe, it’ll all need to be supplied by external sources.
- Environment: The impacts of radiation, extreme temperatures, and weightlessness can prove dangerous if not deadly unless humans develop ways to harness them. Without constantly wearing a hefty spacesuit, extraterrestrial travelers can succumb to hypoxia or other conditions almost immediately.
- Companionship: From uncertainties about how safe it is to have sex to simply missing those you leave back on Earth, the loneliness of space could have serious, as-yet-undetermined consequences.