Nestled between state lines of Arizona and Nevada sits the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge built by a Japanese company looking to develop a project by 2050 to change societies’ approach to Space. They propose creating an elevator that extends from the equator to Space and allows for more manageable entry and exit to a volatile ecosystem. Obayashi Corporation (1802:JP), from Tokyo, is a company that “builds commercial, residential, and institutional buildings with earthquake resistant technology” and “performs civil engineering” . From 1904, the company has completed a list of projects including Tokyo Central Station (1914), The Main Tower of Osaka Castle (1931), Minato Bridge (1972), San Francisco Sewer (1982), Kansai International Airport (1994), Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line (1997), Oasis 21 (2002), Tokyo Skytree (2012) and others.
On November 4, 2014, in a statement, the company made public their Space Elevator Construction Concept which provided an exciting theoretical overview of the concept and technological advances deployed for its construction.
According to the company, “the space elevator is planned to be built by the year 2050 with a capacity to carry 100-ton climbers. It is composed of a 96,000-km carbon nanotube cable, a 400-m diameter floating Earth Port, and a 12,500-ton counter-weight. Other facilities include Martian/Lunar Gravity Centers, an Low Earth Orbit Gate, a Geostationary Earth Orbit Station, a Mars Gate, and a Solar System Exploration Gate” . As proposed by the Obayashi Corporation (1802:JP), the space elevator is not a simple, one-dimensional project but a complex organism being constructed miles away. The company acknowledges the supply and construction challenges since the basis of the project relies on carbon nanotubes. It accurately concludes, “the current technology levels are not yet sufficient to realize the concept, but our plan is realistic, and is a stepping stone toward the construction of the space elevator” . Compared to the cruiseliners, space tourism-related companies are working with immeasurable factors of unknown magnitudes. Yes, there are no pirates in Space, but the smallest impact from the tiniest object can have catastrophic damage.
While Obayashi Corporation (1802:JP) announced that in 2014, in a modern race for billionaire superiority, individuals such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Robert Bigelow are investing their wealth in space ventures. The entry price of $250,000 for the feeling of weightlessness for 5 minutes provided by Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE) has gained market traction . Since it went public in 2017, Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE) has returned above 350% compared to approximately 50% from the S&P 500.
As of July 2020, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the U.S. average Domestic airfare is $244.79, which, compared to January 1995, represents an approximately 17% decline.The average price was equal to the inflation-adjusted price in July 2020, and the inflation-adjusted price has declined steadily since Jan 1995. The purpose of the exercise is to exhibit the almost 1000% difference between airfare and ‘spacefare‘ and an indication of the level of disposable income that needs to be attracted. Nuances can be isolated, showing how such companies are looking to grab consumers‘ attention even though their main clientele currently includes government and research agencies.
To compare and contrast the Obayashi Corporation’s (1802:JP) prospects to Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE) and the likes, the Japanese entity offers a science fiction approach to entry and exit, whereas others provide a more economical rendition of historical practice. In 2001, Dennis Tito spent $20 million and became the first space tourist spending eight days in Space after NASA “refused on the grounds that he was not a trained astronaut” . The trip was facilitated by Richard Garriot, founder of Space Adventures, a private company out of Vienna, VA. By coordinating with the Russian Soyuz program, Garriot’s private company allows individuals to visit Space for a hefty price. Garriot himself spent 12 days in Space in 2008, costing $30 million . Space is not meant to be a cheap endeavor. Obayashi Corporation (1802:JP) Space Elevator project could cost $90 billion . The argument that space tourism won’t be economical would be a diminutive one since wealthy individuals and governments have submitted to a hefty entry price before. For Space in general, price appears merely a barrier for wealthy individuals and governments that lack avenues of recovery.
Furthermore, to think that physical and mental characteristics required to meet space challenges can be voluntarily gained by signing up is to quote commentator Stephen A. Smith, “blasphemous”. According to the Astronaut Selection and Training from NASA, excluding the academic requirement, candidates should exhibit the following qualifications: 1000 hours of pilot-in-command time for jet aircraft, blood pressure not to exceed 140/90, standing height between 62 and 75 inches, SCUBA qualified, tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit, swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping and others.
Unlike cruise lines or airlines, Space’s mass-commercialization can conflate with a direct increase in the generalization of qualifications or attributes. Space invokes many people’s inner curiosity, but space tourism as a viable commercial industry for the general public is a whole another paradigm. What would have taken centuries can be achieved in decades with modern technologies. Technology helps us achieve what was once impossible, but can technology help so much that it generalizes Space is an exciting tale to witness for the current and upcoming generations.