Space X CEO Elon Musk reached peak form yesterday when he boldly proposed city-to-city rocket travel at the 68th International Astronautical Congress. The announcement came as part of Musk’s already rather ambitious plan to eventually facilitate interplanetary travel, and featured bold claims of super-short flight times, like 22 minutes from Hong Kong to Singapore, and 30 from New York to Paris.
Putting the question of technical and financial feasibility aside, there seems to be one big thing Musk and his team are forgetting here: Being in a rocket is absolutely awful.
Apologies for crushing your childhood dreams, but rockets suck. (Or, at least, traveling in them does.) Turns out, breaching the planet’s atmosphere takes a teensy bit more effort than ascending to 20,000 feet, and all of those G forces don’t exactly feel great. Don’t believe me? Here’s how actual astronaut Chris Hadfield described the experience [emphasis mine]:
You watch the launch pad disappear out the window. By the time we clear it, we’re going 100 miles per hour straight up. And you accelerate at just such a brutal manner. The vibration is so high and, it’s not like an airliner that kind of flops along through the sky, this thing moves like a tuning fork … [At] 45 seconds, you’re going faster than the speed of sound straight up and you’re accelerating … and it’s a brutal physical ride as you’re shouldering your way through the air … And after two minutes the solids [rocket boosters] have done their job, so these huge candle sticks are out of fuel and they explode off … And now it’s liquid drive, and you’re just getting pushed above the air faster and faster and faster and getting pinned heavier and heavier and heavier in your seat like something was just pouring sand on you as you get more and more crushed in your chair. And it just gets harder and harder to breathe and it lasts another 6 minutes and 40 seconds of this steadily increasing weight on you as you’re getting crushed and you’re having to fight for every breath … And then suddenly, at 8 minutes and 42 seconds, the gas tank is out of fuel and the engines shut off and you’re weightless.