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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

Edited by: Laura Sweet

To infinity and beyond…or maybe not.

Humanity has always been fascinated by space – the untouchable stars, the distant planets, a galaxy far, far away. We look up to the sky and wonder what exists beyond this planet we call home. Our minds wander, past the Moon, past our solar system, past our galaxy. To infinity and beyond, right?

Well, not quite. Not for all of us anyway, because the harsh truth is this: most of us will never get the chance to fly to space.

While humanity’s achievements in space exploration have grown rapidly in the past few decades alone, we are still far from making space travel accessible to the general population. It remains unattainable unless you are one of the wealthiest people on the planet, fighting to launch the best rockets or send the richest civilians into space before anyone else does (not that anyone else can…) or willing to pay for a spot on the International Space Station. What a privilege!

However, before this ‘space race,’ there was only the novelty of space travel, the short, successful missions, all of humanity’s ‘firsts’ when it came to space exploration.

Humanity’s Milestones in Space Travel

  1. October 4, 1957 – The first satellite, Sputnik 1, is launched.
  2. July 29, 1958 – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is established.
  3. April 12, 1961 –Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.
  4. June 16, 1963 – Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space.  
  5. July 21, 1969 – Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to step on the Moon.
  6. April 19, 1971 – The first orbital space station, Salyut 1, is launched.
  7. July 20, 1976 – Viking 1 becomes the first spacecraft to land on Mars and bring back images of the planet.
  8. April 12, 1981 – The space shuttle, Columbia, becomes the first reusable manned spacecraft.
  9. April 25, 1990 – The Hubble Space telescope becomes the first of its kind to be placed into orbit.
  10. April 28, 2001 – Dennis Tito becomes the first space tourist.
  11. September 28, 2008 – SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, becomes the first private firm to launch a rocket into orbit.
  12. November 12, 2014 – Philae becomes the first spacecraft to land on a comet.
  13. January 3, 2019 – The first landing on the Moon’s far side is achieved by Chang’e 4.

As we can see, outer space is no longer quite ‘unknown.’ It is just another voyage, another expedition to tackle. And for three very rich men, it is another business venture.

The Race to Space: The Candidates

While the “space race” of the 20th century was an undeclared war between Western and Eastern countries, the race of this century is between individuals who did not even start out in space travel at all.  


We know Elon Musk as the founder of Tesla and occasionally, through his austere Twitter presence. He is also the founder of SpaceX, a company created in 2002 that has placed satellites into Earth’s orbit and flown the most powerful rocket to date. In addition, a SpaceX spacecraft has successfully brought four astronauts to the ISS. Nowadays, SpaceX is planning to design and launch a spacecraft that will allow humans to fly to the Moon and even to Mars.

Richard Branson

Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Money, Virgin Mobile…we have all heard of them. And they are all businesses established by one man: Richard Branson. He also founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, and similar to SpaceX, it has launched rockets into orbit and has flown smaller satellites into space. In addition, Virgin Galactic made astronauts out of eight people – four pilots (including Branson himself!) and four crew members and employees – on July 11, 2021.

Jeff Bezos

Born in 1964, CEO, entrepreneur Jeffrey Bezos…so the song goes. We know him as the founder and CEO of Amazon, the company that helped most of us get much-needed retail therapy during the pandemic. Not only that, he established Blue Origin in 2000 and recently, the company’s work has come to light. They aspire to create orbital space colonies for people to live and work in to prolong humanity’s survival once the planet can no longer sustain us. Jeff Bezos himself flew into space on July 20, 2021, and his company continues to plan for more space endeavours.

To Infinity and Beyond…or Maybe Not

The question then remains.

Should the rich be permitted to venture into the cosmos and carve out a space (pun intended) for themselves in humanity’s history of intergalactic exploration? It can be argued that in using their own money, of course, they can. But it is difficult to ignore that there are so many more opportunities right here on Earth for them to spend their funds on if their endgame is indeed humanity’s survival.

And then, of course, there is humanity’s lingering interest in all things interstellar, which only encourages the rich and the privileged to continue their expeditions.

You see, the galaxy has been written into us from the start.

We have always been told to shoot for the moon because even if we miss, we will land amongst the stars and reach new heights. And yet, we are reminded to remain down to Earth, to control our egos and our ambition.

When it comes to space exploration, it is hard to say which path is the correct one to follow.  But given the nature of this planet and the people on it, perhaps the answer will be thrust upon us.

To infinity and beyond, it is.


  1. AFP, F. P. A.-. (2021, April 7). Ingenuity and beyond: 10 milestones in space exploration. Daily Sabah. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.dailysabah.com/life/science/ingenuity-and-beyond-10-milestones-in-space-exploration.
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Major milestones. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/science/space-exploration/Major-milestones.
  3. Wattles, J. (2021, July 20). Which billionaire is winning The space race? it depends. CNN. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/14/tech/jeff-bezos-richard-branson-elon-musk-space-race-scn/index.html
Sophia Alcasabas

U Toronto '22

Soph is an Honours Bachelor of Arts student studying Linguistics, Cognitive Science, and French. They are hoping to pursue a graduate degree in Speech Language Pathology. When she is not writing for Her Campus, she can be found sipping (bubble)tea, reading a good book, or bingeing Marvel movies.