As Japan’s second female astronaut to fly up in the Space Shuttle Discovery, Naoko Yamazaki didn’t expect to spend a quarter of her time dusting, feeding mice and doing other menial jobs.
It can cost more than $430 million a year to keep an astronaut in orbit, according to three-year-old startup called Gitai Inc. It’s only possible to keep humans alive in outer space because of the money and effort poured into ensuring their safety. One way to bring down the cost and risks is to send an avatar — a remotely controlled robot.
Commercial launch provider Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, built its business to bring down the cost of space travel. Rockets by the Hawthorne, California-based company cost less than $60 million per launch to low-Earth orbit, compared with more than $400 million for a typical launch. The company also is working to slash the cost of sending humans into space and eventually establishing bases on the moon and Mars.
Competing with him is Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, whose own Blue Origin space company is developing its own reusable rockets to send people into space, with a long-term goal of building orbiting colonies around Earth.
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