When billionaire Jeff Bezos straps onto his company’s rocket capsule on July 20, he and his fellow travelers will be taking a calculated risk to their lives and physical integrity during their suborbital flight. Only 382 space flights have been launched from the United States, and four of them have ended catastrophically.
So the failure rate is around one in a hundred, which is much higher than that of commercial air transport, which is one in a million, or that of most other land-based activities, according to the. analysis by the Center for Space Policy and Strategy .
« Until we get a lot of experience, as we have done with millions of airplane flights over the years, there will be some learning, » said George Nield, co-author of the report, to Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen. « With cars, boats, planes and trains, people die every year. And spaceflight will be no different in that regard. »
Work accidents are more numerous
But if you look at it another way, space flight accidents in the United States have claimed the lives of far fewer people than the number of people who die from work-related accidents. According to US labor statistics , approximately 5,000 workers die each year, while 15 astronauts have died in the history of US spaceflight. What’s more, of the 5,333 American workers who died in 2019 alone, more than 913 worked in the transportation and warehouse industry. In other words, if a person dies on the job, there is a high probability that they were driving a truck or working in a warehouse.
Across all sectors, more than half of worker fatalities are due to transportation incidents or slips, trips and falls. The rates of injury and non-fatal illness are naturally much higher. In 2019, there were about three incidents per 100 workers, in which one person suffered an illness or injury on the job that required at least one day of sick leave.
It’s difficult to make direct statistical comparisons between spaceflight and other activities, in part because the industry is still so new, which amplifies the risk. In addition, the Federal Civil Aviation Administration is not empowered to issue rules relating to the health and safety of participants in space flights.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket has made 15 flights since 2015, including three successful tests of its emergency escape system that drops the passenger capsule in the event of a rocket failure. Jeff Bezos’ flight will be the spacecraft’s first flight with humans on board. Blue Origin’s approach to product development is « much less risky » than NASA’s space shuttle program, which had a full crew on its very first flight, said John Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute from George Washington University and former NASA Advisory Board member to Morgan McFall-Johnsen.
Amazon wants to reduce workplace accidents
Meanwhile, on Earth, drivers for Amazon’s delivery partners have described how the delivery scheduling app sometimes asks them to cross multiple lanes of traffic, or they have to choose between filling quotas or driving safely. security.
One of Jeff Bezos’ latest actions as CEO was to highlight the problem the company is currently having with workplace injuries and to pledge to make Amazon « the safest place in the world to. to work ». In his letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos said he would make workplace safety one of his main areas of focus in his continued role as executive chairman. The company will invest $ 300 million (around € 253 million in 2021 to halve workplace accidents by 2025, including a $ 66 million (around € 56 million) project to prevent accidents at work. collisions between forklifts and industrial vehicles.
“Jeff Bezos is a risk taker,” John Logsdon said. « He certainly understands that there are risks [in spaceflight], and probably has a good idea of the degree of risk. »
Original version: Dominick Reuter / Insider