may get the headlines with his company Virgin Galactic, but Eric Anderson is the one who is actually sending private adventurers into space right now. As CEO of Space Adventures, he has been responsible for dispatching Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen, Anousheh Ansari, Charles Simonyi, and—by the time you read this—Richard Garriott into orbit for weeklong stays onboard the .
Anderson started out as an aerospace engineer and always wanted to venture into space. But instead of joining NASA’s astronaut corps, he began looking at ways a commercial company might go where only government agencies had gone before, ultimately striking a deal with the Russians to carry paying customers aloft.
Not satisfied with piggybacking on other nations’ flights, Anderson is now commissioning the construction of Space Adventures’ own Russian-built to carry two paying passengers at a time. Next he plans an even more ambitious mission: a trip around the moon in a souped-up Soyuz, with a ticket price of $100 million per passenger.
What is the biggest engineering obstacle to creating a private spaceflight industry?
Developing new types of space vehicles that are reliable, economical, and practical.
How can we address that problem?
The challenge of human spaceflight is that you deal with energies that are much greater than those found in most engineering problems. If there were ways to create new fuels, that would be very useful. We’ve reached kind of the limit of what chemical fuels can do. Something that could be obtainable in a decade or two is using a hypersonic ramjet stage [an extremely fast type of jet engine] to get up to a very high speed in the atmosphere and then launching something from it into orbit. In a 100-year time frame, we’re talking about things like .