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A virtual space tourism launch and new space station plans

A new replica of Blue Origin's New Shepard offers guests a mixed-reality experience of launching into space.
Salvatore Boccia
/
Blue Origin Media
A new replica of Blue Origin's New Shepard offers guests a mixed-reality experience of launching into space.

A trip to space, from Earth

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has opened a new mixed-reality experience that allows people to travel in a replica of Blue Origin’s New Shepard space capsule, all without leaving the ground.

The experience uses virtual reality headsets aboard the replica along with different movements and video from a real New Shepard launch. Much like the same trip William Shatner and Michael Strahan took.

Blue Origin’s Barret Schlegelmilch, trains astronauts that fly on the real New Shepard capsule. He is hopeful that this new mixed-reality experience will inspire others to take the real trek to the cosmos.

“One of the real purposes of this whole thing is to inspire the next generation of space enthusiast space explorers, to tacitly feel what it's like to kind of fly in space and see that as a real possibility and see spaceflight as this, this more attainable or achievable thing," Schlegelmilch said.

With a growing space tourism industry, Schlegelmilch is hopeful that more people will get to fly into space.

"In the industry as a whole, we're at this really exciting inflection point in history where we are going to see more people fly in the next 10 years to space than I've ever flown in in history," Schlegelmilch said.

A new era of space stations

The International Space Station will be decommissioned in the coming years, but aerospace company Vast is working on new plans to provide a commercial space station with artificial gravity.

Vast’s Drew Feustel is a veteran NASA astronaut. Feustel spent a total of 226 days in space over the course of three flights. He’s now joined Vast as an advisor.

With Vast's new space station plans, the aerospace company plans to have something in orbit by 2025.

"NASA has full intention to decommission the space station," Feustel said. "In terms of the race, I don't think the race is between companies, the race is really just an effort to ensure that we don't have a gap in capability and service and access to low Earth orbit."

Vast is working on a new space station that will use artificial gravity and microgravity.
Images courtesy of Vast
Vast is working on a new space station that will use artificial gravity and microgravity.

The microgravity environment in space has effects on the human body that can pose negative effects.

Vast CEO, Max Haut, said the company is trying to incorporate artificial gravity and microgravity elements to improve the quality of life for people aboard its space station.

"We need to know more about what happens to the human body in these environments, especially since you might not need one G to remove most of the challenges of human spaceflight," Haut said. "This is not in competition to microgravity, but more an expanded capability that's our end goal."

Marian is a multimedia journalist at WMFE 90.7 working as a reporter and producer for the 'Are We There Yet?' space podcast.
Brendan Byrne is WMFE's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the WMFE newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing WMFE's internship program.

Byrne also hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.
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