Table Speech

Advent of the Space Travel Age

April 5, 2017

Mr. Satoshi Takamatsu

 As a young boy, I was thrilled by the image of Apollo 11 landing on the Moon in 1969 and marveled at what humans could achieve through science. I wished to become an astronaut but failed to achieve my dream, due to my poor eyesight that didn’t meet the application requirements.

 I started to work for an advertising agency and produced two TV commercials filmed in the space station. I quit my advertising career two years ago and set up my own space travel agency with the hope to become a space tourist myself. NASA has sent breathtaking images of the Earth, magnificent during daytime and even more so at night, showing how prosperous mankind has become on this planet. The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the Earth every 90 minutes so astronauts on-board can see sunrise and sunset 15 times every day.

 Outer space lies beyond 100 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. Commercial aircrafts usually fly at an altitude of 10 kilometers where the sky looks blue, while the outer space looks pitch dark. A space travel is defined to send self-funding spaceflight participants over 100 kilometers into space for over one minute and land back. There are three kinds of space travel, the sub-orbital spaceflight, staying on a commercial space station for extended periods and the lunar voyage. The first commercially-funded spaceflight was actually made by a Japanese TV journalist, Mr. Toyohiro Akiyama, who was sent to the Mir Space Station aboard a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft in 1990. Inspired by this epoch-making flight, an American company Space Adventures, Ltd. launched a new business to send well-off self-funded individuals to ISS. In 2001, Mr. Dennis Tito became the world’s first space tourist. To date, 7 private citizens have made spaceflights to ISS, including the first female space tourist Ms. Anousheh Ansari. A British singer Ms. Sarah Brightman planned to give the world’s first concert in space and started her training at Star City in Russia. I was actually in the intensive 9-month-training program with her. Unfortunately, Sarah had to postpone her space travel due to personal family reasons. I currently implement a project to be the next traveler to space, ready to give my time and energy for intense trainings in the best possible physical condition.

 I think the year 2017 or 2018 will mark the start of the space travel age. Daytrips to space will become a little more affordable, around 15-35 million yen, which can promote its commercialization. Over 20 years ago several U.S. venture companies began developments for future sub-orbital spaceflights, further promoted by the enactment of the Commercial Space Launch Act by the U.S. Congress in 1998. It authorized the space travel agencies to build commercial spaceports as well as to conduct spaceflights, provided that the traveler makes a contractual agreement on potential risks with the agencies.

 The first private spacecraft to reach space in 2004 was SpaceShipOne, designed by a famed aerospace designer Burt Rutan and funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. It was later acquired by Richard Branson and became Virgin Galactic which organizes space trips by a 6-passenger-rocket at the price of 35 million yen per traveler. XCOR also developed a two-seat rocket-power vehicle to enjoy panoramic views of space at the price of 15 million yen. Blue Origin is a rocket company, founded by CEO Jeff Bezos, currently working on reusable rockets that can perform a vertical takeoff and landing.

 There are also innovative projects to make space travels by hot-air balloons. While the altitude is limited to 60 kilometers, passengers can enjoy magnificent space views from a pressurized capsule that accommodates six passengers. The price is more affordable to be around 8 million yen. Also here in Japan, a venture company called PD Aerospace is working to commercialize sub-orbital space travels, with funding from H.I.S. travel agency and ANA (All Nippon Airways).

 For you information, a lunar voyage can cost about 10 billion yen. Currently, Russia is working to use Soyuz spacecraft, while a U.S. company Space X is also planning a trip that goes around the Moon.

 The ultimate goal of a space travel to me is to observe the Earth. Through extensive discussions I had with those who had made space travels, I learned how precious peace is to us all living on the Earth. I also believe we must work for its environmental conservation. Now, what makes us want to go to space? I believe all living beings, including us humans, have the basic instinct to survive and pioneer the challenging frontiers. I believe space exploration will accelerate as we aim to travel to Mars and expand our frontier even further.

 Space travels will be an extremely exciting entertainment and experience. It means a lot more than just sightseeing. I sincerely hope many more people will have the opportunity to enjoy safe and affordable space travels with me.