In light of space tourism’s arrival, the next frontier in mind is that of space sport.
There are currently plans in place for everything from space soccer to mountaineering on Mars. Space tourists, according to co-founder Allison Dollar of the Space Tourism Society’s annual conference for aerospace, design, and entertainment companies, are “competitive thrill-seekers”. “It’s only normal that we adapt to have sports in space—only it’s natural that we think about Earth from the stars.”
According to a 2019 forecast by financial services company UBS, the space travel and tourism business will be valued at $23 billion by 2030, including six-figure excursions in suborbital and orbital spacecraft, stratosphere balloon flights, simulated zero-gravity flights, and long-haul journeys.
There will be space yacht races and lunar buggy races in the future, according to the founder of the Space Tourism Society, John Spencer. In the current market, “the individuals investing in space are seeking for the newest, coolest things to do,” he explains Sports will play a major role in the evolution of space. This is a no-brainer when you consider how much sponsorship money NFL and NBA teams receive.
He expects that with the development of space sports, live-streamed games will follow. The size of the space stations could be increased to accommodate stadium-style seating. It’s also possible that the venues will look very different.
In 2008, Ken Harvey, a former linebacker for the Washington Redskins (now the Commanders), flew with Zero Gravity Corporation, an Exploration Park, Fla.-based company that flies from U.S. airports. Initially, he was thinking, “Wow, this is a great idea, but what do you do when you become bored?” He was motivated to create a game that could be played in space as a result of this experience.
Football, dodgeball and basketball are all incorporated into “Float Ball,” which includes teams moving coloured balls toward four goals at either end of the playing area, which may be a spaceship cabin or a custom-built space arena. With Linda Rheinstein, the founder of the privately funded Space Games Federation, he’s putting together the game.
Zero-gravity sports have been around for a long time. To prevent bone loss due to the lack of gravity, astronauts spend two-plus hours a day on treadmills strapped to their bodies. Sport as a type of recreational activity has also been tried in less serious ways. Astronaut Alan Shepard set out on the Moon’s surface in 1971 as Commander of Apollo 14.
He could only stroke the golf club with one hand in his pressurised space suit. Despite this, the golf ball flew 600 feet thanks to my half-hearted stroke. Astronauts and cosmonauts honoured the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and 2018 by practising their soccer talents in orbit.
When you take away or diminish gravity, some of the world’s most popular sports lose their appeal. To create new games that can be played in zero- or micro-gravity, Ms Rheinstein, who has a long history in television sports graphics and is now enshrined in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, launched the Space Games Federation in 2014. She describes space exploration as a “billionaire boys club.” One day, “astrocytes” and “spectators” will have equal access to outer space, as I hope.
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In 2019, the company launched a crowd-sourced competition to create new games that can be played in outer space. Inno, a game involving trampolines and Velcro-padded walls in which the goal is to bounce balls through the opposing team’s goal, and “Space Ball,” a riff on basketball in which the goal is to get a magnetic ball through a hoop of the same polarity, were among the five winners announced by the federation on Friday.
Space Games Federation-affiliated parabolic flights will be used to refine the ideas of the winners, who will each get a $5,000 cash reward, Ms Rheinstein explains. Astrocytes, as she calls them, will benefit from her training programmes on Earth-based spatial awareness. As a start, we’ve teamed up with Canadian extreme trampoline expert Greg Roe to produce a piece that features seemingly gravity-defying jumps and tricks.
Using a hydrodynamic ball resembling a tiny torpedo with fins, the Underwater Torpedo League teaches aerospace professionals in the United States how to play an underwater version of football.
“The pool is a low-gravity environment like space,” says Underwater Torpedo League performance coach Jamie Tyler. Underwater and space environments have similar sensory and proprioceptive cues that are distorted, therefore we teach students how to cope with these conditions. Prime Hall, the group’s creator, says he can envision training space athletes in the future.
Earthlings can now practise their space athletics talents in virtual reality. For those who have never imagined what it might be like to play sports on Mars, the Mars Society has teamed up with the Seattle-based technology company MXTreality to create MarsVR, an immersive virtual and augmented reality experience.
Founder of the Space United network of traditional soccer clubs for space engineers, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin engineer Camilo Tobacia collaborated with MXTreality developers to design a feature in their soon-to-launch MarsVR experience that allows users to try to kick a soccer ball on Mars and learn about how throwing or hitting sports in Martian gravity might be adjusted.
Mr Tobacia believes that a low-gravity soccer game on Mars is not that far away. It may not be exactly like how we play on Earth, but we’re talking to engineers about developing a dome where you could bounce a ball off walls and leap from them. A “superhuman indoor soccer game” would be “awesome.”
As the founder of the MXTreality company, Jeff Raynor claims to be working on developing climbing experiences based on the attributes of several planets—for example, a mountain on Mars with 70,000 feet of elevation. According to him, “We’re using NASA data to re-create the landscape and examine what climbing could look like,” Even though you can’t hold a rock in your hands because of the ungainly costume and gloves, you’ll be able to jump three times as high.
An astrophysicist by training, Mr Raynor says he intends to take use of the superpowers we have in other worldly worlds to develop new space sports like basketball-quidditch, high-jump hurdles, and sideways gymnastics.