Boeing has released conceptual designs for its next-gen space capsule, giving us a peek into the future of commercial space travel. (There will be legroom.) So far, the commercial space market is still in fairytale mode--a seat on Virgin Galactic, which has yet to complete its first flight, costs $250,000.
“We are moving into a truly commercial space market and we have to consider our potential customers--beyond NASA--and what they need in a future commercial spacecraft interior," Chris Ferguson, a director for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, said in a press statement.
Not only will Boeing ferry astronauts to space, but it will also cater to a tiny portion of the 1%: people who can buy their own spacecraft. (It's curious how narrow the definition of "commercial" is in some industries.) So, no surprise: Boeing's space cabin will be a lot like traveling first class, but hopefully even nicer. The design features the same lighting Boeing uses on its planes, a colored LED system designed to make the cabin feel more spacious. It can be programmed to emit a soft blue light not unlike the color of the daytime sky, designed to help passengers feel connected to Earth. Wi-Fi will ensure that passengers will never miss an opportunity to tweet from space; storage pods will stow personal belongings.
This interior will be featured in Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST-100) capsule, a model being developed as part of a NASA initiative. NASA hopes to encourage private companies to design crew transportation systems that the government can use to send people into low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station resides. (Currently NASA’s astronauts fly to the ISS in Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.) Because of this, the interior is flexible. To send NASA astronauts to the ISS, it would hold five people plus cargo, but for a commercial flight, the seats can be configured differently, to fit seven people. And it will be autonomous--a pilot will be on hand as backup, but the spacecraft is designed to function largely without a pilot.
The CST-100 is scheduled to fly its first test flight with NASA in January 2017. The interior won’t be quite this flashy, however, because it’s being designed to NASA’s specifications. When will you (actually, not you) be able to go where (nearly) no man has gone before? The truth is out there.
[Images: Courtesy of Boeing Illustration]