Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Cape Canaveral, FL, United States (4E) – SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has unveiled Friday during the 68th International Astronautical Conference in Australia his plan for a high-speed transport from one city to city on Earth using mega-rockets that carry astronauts to space.
The ship that travels to space, he said, will be also be used for Earth-based travel at high speed: 29 minutes from London to Dubai, 25 minutes from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and 39 minutes from New York to Shanghai.
“Most of what people consider to be long-distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour,” Musk told the conference participants. The plan, however, is still at the theoretical stage.
But the proposed hyper-speed travel from the standpoint of Physics is achievable but in practical terms could be a logistical nightmare, Secure World Foundation’s program planning director Brian Weeden told The Verge.
While the plan is inspiring, Musk failed to mention the risks to passengers on board the rockets just for a few hours shaved off from the present mode of travel.
“You can’t fly humans on that same kind of orbit,” Weeden pointed out.
“For one, the acceleration and the G-forces for both the launch and the re-entry would kill people,” he said. The stress passengers have to endure during the sub-orbital rocket travel is hazardous to human health.
Another barrier is the passengers’ exposure to radiation in the ballistic trajectory, Weeden added. The situation is different for the astronauts in the International Space Station where the Earth’s magnetic field shielded them from radiation.
Although Musk promised to keep the cost of travel is about the same of the economy plane fare, the proposal is not financially feasible.
The reusable rockets, according to a study by the US Air Force, are only good up to 100 flights. In contrast, commercial airplanes are up to 10,000 flights.
Musk’s hyper-speed and sub-orbital rocket travel will cost each passenger up to 10 times the cost of the ordinary plane travel, NexGen Space president Charles Miller told The Verge.
“He may be 1-in-10,000 (for) loss of vehicle, but it’s nowhere near the 3-and10 million reliability of airlines,” he said.
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