The future of space travel

- When it comes to space exploration, especially in this day and age, the sky is the limit.

"There are two parts to space exploration: humans and robots," said Michael Shara, curator of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.

Shara is animated when it comes to all things space, so we met with him to hear his predictions for the future.

"We actually have the capabilities today of launching humans quite a bit further out into space, perhaps to rendezvous with an asteroid or at least do a flyby of a nearby asteroid in the coming decade or so," Shara said.

While NASA, which is the federal government's space program, does its research, more private companies are blasting their way into the atmosphere.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently launched his Tesla Roadster into space on top of the first Falcon Heavy rocket.

"It's actually good for NASA," Shara said. "That way NASA can focus instead on other missions, other capabilities that may be of very little interest to Elon Musk."

While SpaceX is the dominant player in the privatization of the space industry at the moment, business mogul Richard Branson has big plans, too. In just a few years, his spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, is expected to make big moves.

"You're going to get on an airplane with four or five other people. That airplane is going to take off from a conventional runway, fly up to about 10 miles or so," Shara said. "It's going to drop your small space plane, which will turn itself vertically and fly right up through the atmosphere up to a height of about 62 miles."

Shara predicted that anyone in their 20s and younger will be able to travel to the moon and orbit the earth in their lifetimes, of course, if they choose to. He estimated that these trips will cost tens of thousands of dollars. So if you're interested now, you better start saving.

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