Saturday, May 17, 2014

Astronaut Camps

"Live a week like an astronaut."

A company that puts people through rigorous astronaut training and simulations. This business can be approached from both the experiential entertainment/learning side or the serious launch preparation side.

This business could begin as space camp on steroids. Just like when some people take nature survival classes or mock SEAL training, this "camp" could create the experience of training for and being an astronaut. People could go through zero-g flights, centrifuges, and all kinds of tough workouts. Then, after a time of "training" they would be able to be put into the simulation of their choice. Perhaps 'repair' a space station mock-up in the swimming pool, or visit the "Mars Colony" on campus.

Of course, it doesn't have to take such an extreme direction. Creation of the experiences of being on Mars or the Moon for a week as if one were a real astronaut (an extreme space VR) could also be a viable business model on the entertainment side.

Such a camp could also become the industry contractor for preparing prospective space tourists and explorers for their launches and missions. It would be in charge of training and certification of most space passengers in the weeks prior to their flights. Currently, this is performed by the launch company. Being able to outsource passenger preparation would allow those companies to focus on their primary business of engineering vehicles.

Space Camps and "learning to be an astronaut" has been around for awhile. And companies like Zero-G are capitalizing on people wanting to have a space experience. The problem is that space camps have been relatively superficial and don't capitalize on the complete experience. And Zero-G is focusing only on the weightless flights. A true Astronaut camp would need to go deeper into the experience and leverage all connections with companies like Zero-G and others like it that will emerge.

Now there is always the danger that the entertainment or learning aspect of the camp will not get the response needed to maintain it. It will have a marketing and presentation problem. After all, space doesn't quite have the attraction that it did in the 1950's-1970's. But if that should fail initially, the entertainment concept could be kept in reserve for when space opens up again and public interest is in that direction. Until then, contracts for actual training for missions would be adequate and increasing as more launch vehicles begin operations and human traffic increases.

This kind of a business has a lot of facets. Practical, leisure, extreme sports, team-building. An "Astronaut Camp" could take any kind of form or focus. If it is to cater to the general public it would have to be something fun and exciting that isn't too harsh but still give the real feel for space. But if it wants to be a part of the actual private space industry, in a big way, it will need to eventually become what some of Nasa's Manned Spaceflight Centers are.

But overall, the idea of an all-in "Astronaut Camp" is something that can be approached today and, with proper execution, could be viable independently of the current space industry.