Space travel was once something only governments could do. Now private companies are getting into it, and soon private citizens as well. I’m not talking about the super expensive space flights offered by companies like Virgin Galactic. I mean everyday people building their own personal space programs.
In the last decade, CubeSats have become increasingly popular. CubeSats are small, cubical satellites that can be bundled together and launched in small groups. This allows anyone from major corporations to small universities to individuals tinkering in their garages to conduct science experiments in space at a relatively low cost. Groups of CubeSats are sometimes launched along with other space missions, lowering the cost even more. For more on CubeSats, click here.
A group in Germany, with the noble goal of providing censorship-free Internet to everyone, is planning to launch their own satellites into orbit. If successful, the Hackerspace Global Grid (H.G.G.) would provide an Internet connection to everyone in the world, bypassing any restrictions imposed by terrestrial governments. China has strict censorship rules about Internet access, and the United States is considering some strict rules or its own with the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act. For more on H.G.G., click here.
One family in New York recently launched a video camera into space. They built a “space capsule” with an HD camera, an iPhone (for its GPS function), and some hand warmers to keep the electronics from freezing. They attached it to a weather balloon and let it fly into the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. Here is the video their camera brought back.
The most advanced technology of the 1960’s is obsolete now, but that technology was good enough to take a man to the Moon. As the cost of technology continues to drop, space travel will become more and more affordable. Of course it still isn’t what you’d call “cheap.” A CubeSat could cost tens of thousands of dollars to build and launch, but that’s still less expensive than traditional space launches and makes space accessible to a wider range of people.