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Spaceships Instead of Airplanes? Japan Unveils Plan for 2040

A few years ago if someone asked you to imagine spaceships as a mode of everyday transport, you would dismiss the idea, right? But the Japanese government, along with private companies, is all set to develop an intercontinental passenger spaceship network that will enable people to fly to the major cities of the world in two hours or even lesser. On May 12, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology unveiled the plan, which aims to achieve its goals by the early 2040s.

Not just that, the ministry also predicts that the market for spaceships by 2040 could touch roughly 5 trillion yen (roughly $46 billion; Rs. 33,472 crore), reported The Mainichi. The report added that the ministry has prepared a draft roadmap for its ambitious passenger spaceship programme.

Two phases:

In the first step, Japan is said to reduce the price of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s H3 rocket from a humongous $46 million (roughly Rs. 335 crore) to half by reusing parts. The next step is to launch the successor of the H3 rocket, which could be accomplished around 2030. By the early 2040s, the roadmap aims at further reducing the cost to about 10 percent, the ministry reportedly said. Since such a network is expected to carry passengers from one city to another, the next step involves the private sector that will lead to the development of spacecraft that can go back and forth between space and earth frequently.

Types of spaceships:

The ministry has envisioned two types of spaceships — one that’s similar to an aeroplane which can take off and land on runways and the other that can take off and land vertically. In its research, the ministry has also concluded that there would be considerable demand for such a spaceship network connecting major cities on the ground.

While this is the first time that a country has developed a proper roadmap for the spaceship network, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, in 2017, spoke briefly about using an interplanetary rocket system for long-distance travel on earth too.

Sharing the idea, Musk claimed such a network, once operational, would allow people to take “most long-distance trips” in just half-an-hour, and go “anywhere on Earth in under an hour” for around the same price as an economy airline ticket.

It’s Google I/O time this week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, as we discuss Android 12, Wear OS, and more. Later (starting at 27:29), we jump over to Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder’s Netflix zombie heist movie. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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