The Blue Origin rocket taking off.

The Blue Origin rocket blasts off on July 20.

Blue Origin

Racing Into Space

Recent missions have created new ways for different kinds of people to go to space.

Three . . . two . . . one . . . Liftoff! Space travel changed on July 11 with the launch of a space plane. It was built by a company called Virgin Galactic. The plane shot to the edge of space, about 53 miles above Earth’s surface.

Nine days later, another company’s spacecraft took off. Blue Origin’s craft soared about 13 miles higher than Virgin Galactic’s craft above Earth.

SpaceX, a third company, is part of this “space race.” This fall, it plans to send people on a mission that will orbit, or travel around, Earth.

In the past, most space missions have been planned by government agencies, such as NASA. Only trained astronauts visited space. But these companies’ trips to space show that commercial flights are possible. Now customers can pay to visit space as tourists.

A New Kind of Race

The first space race was between the U.S. and the Soviet Union from 1957 until 1969. The nations competed to be the leader in space exploration.

This new space race is between companies, not nations. Space travelers won’t be picked by NASA. They’ll pay for seats, just as you would for a plane.

But tickets will cost a lot more. Someone paid $28 million for a seat on Blue Origin’s spacecraft!

Virgin Galactic

The Virgin Galactic space plane rockets toward the edge of space on July 11.

Space for Everyone?

Courtesy SpaceX

Wealthy people won’t be the only ones going to space. A billionaire bought all four seats on the SpaceX mission. But that person donated two to a hospital. One of the spots went to Hayley Arceneaux (AHR-seh-noh).

As a kid, Arceneaux wanted to be an astronaut. But when she was 10, she had bone cancer. Part of one leg was replaced by metal rods. She’s excited to become the first person with a prosthetic limb to travel to space.

“I never would have had this opportunity before,” she says. “Until now, astronauts had to be physically perfect.”

Arceneaux’s mission is called Inspiration4. She hopes it will inspire more people to explore space.

Update: SpaceX Inspiration4 was a success! Click here to read our update on Hayley's journey.

1. What are some differences between the original space race and today’s new one? 

2. Why does Hayley Arceneaux say that she wouldn’t be able to experience space without SpaceX? 

3. What is the purpose of the sidebar “Learning to Float”? 

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