MARTY RUSSELL: A familiar final frontier

By Marty Russell

The docking of the Dragon capsule last week with the International Space Station as the first commercial spacecraft to ever accomplish such a feat got me to thinking about the future of commercial spaceflight. Now that the private firm SpaceX has opened the door to commercialization of space, what will come next?
Will future commercial space flight be the super-luxurious, martini and classical music trips like the Pan Am clipper that ferried Heywood Floyd from the Earth to an orbiting space station at the beginning of “2001: A Space Odyssey” or more like the Mayflower 1, the errant passenger space shuttle Ted Striker had to commandeer before it headed into the sun in “Airplane II?” Given the state of commercial air travel here on Earth, I suspect it’ll wind up more of the latter …
“The white zone is for loading and unloading only. Boarding is now under way for Jet Blue Flight 42 on launch pad B-12.”
“Sir, you have to remove your shoes.”
“But it took me three hours to get into this spacesuit. My flight leaves in half an hour.”
“You should have thought of that earlier. TSA rules specifically recommend that passengers arrive at least 12 hours prior to departure. Lucky for you you’re flying Jet Blue. It’ll probably be stuck on the launch pad for another two days.”
Meanwhile, on board Delta Flight 36 bound for Mars …
“Stewardess? Would you please ask the child in the seat behind me to stop kicking it. She’s been doing it for the last million miles and if she doesn’t stop I’m going to scream!”
“Well, sir, unlike what they tell you in the movies, in space everyone can hear you scream. It’s just that no one cares.”
“Then what is this I’m eating?”
“It’s a dehydrated ham and cheese sandwich, sir. The same thing we’ve been serving on flights from Atlanta to New York for years.”
“Where’s the bathroom, stewardess?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but the bathroom is out of order. I’m afraid you’ll just have to hold it for the next 10 million miles or so.”
Later …
“Ah, what a relief.”
“What do you mean, she said the bathroom was broken?”
“Let’s just say I boldly went where no man has gone before. And don’t order the ham and cheese. It’s not so dehydrated anymore.”
Meanwhile back on Earth in Interplanetary Customs …
“Anything to declare? Are you bringing back any taxable items, fruit, vegetables or face-hugging alien parasites?”
“Oh, I see that you are. Sorry, I thought that was just your face.”
So given the history of humans and flight, I suspect the final frontier may turn out to be more familiar to us than we would have hoped. I think I’ll wait until they can just beam me up.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at

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