Elon Musk has continually proven to be the superman of many technology industries, as the companies he runs or is associated with have often made key partnerships or launched products that astounded every strata of spectator. Tesla Motors is working on building electric trucks, SUVs and vans, PayPal has continued to serve customers well, and SpaceX seems to only now be approaching the beginning of how far the company’s innovations will reach. In 2006, just four brief years after SpaceX was launched, Musk’s company won a NASA contract allowing cargo interactions with the International Space Station (ISS). This began a consistent stream of NASA and SpaceX collaborations, and the capabilities of SpaceX will likely be proven pivotal to the future success of NASA’s Mars goals.
The contract that SpaceX landed with NASA was called a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contract, or COTS. SpaceX is the only commercial spaceflight company to have launched and returned a rocket from Earth orbit so far. Since they accomplished this in December of 2010, SpaceX’s more than 3,000 employees have been working earnestly to fashion more rockets that will stand the test of time and create a new meaning for the commodity and luxury of space travel.
Now, the progress that SpaceX has facilitated alongside NASA could well mean that both companies are significantly closer to their colonization efforts of Mars than they realized. SpaceX’s eventual completion of the Falcon Heavy rocket will act as an essential instrument in the success of Mars colonization. SpaceX has already been able to perform launches for around $60 million, and since NASA also regards the colonization of Mars as a top-tier pursuit, SpaceX will very likely prove pivotal to NASA’s goals in this respect.
With NASA’s budget lower than it has ever been, NASA decision-makers are likely Pavlovian dogs at the prospect of harnessing SpaceX’s rocket mastery in the private sector. COO of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, commented last year that SpaceX is largely striving to reduce their launch cost to around $5 million, a fraction of the expenses that every launch from history has needed to use.
Two of the biggest cost leeches of space launches are equipment and fuel, and this is part of the reason that NASA has been performing fewer cost-intensive missions since the 1960s, when manned missions were frequent. NASA has not always been able to use reusable equipment either, which is why SpaceX has come along as the perfect complement.
The combination of NASA’s knowledge and experience with SpaceX’s equipment and flexibility could mean that manned Mars expeditions could be taking place before 2050. Elon Musk himself is one of the most adamant supporters of Mars colonization in the technology and science arenas, and appears to be pushing his company to achieve this feat much sooner than later.
Based on Musk’s comments throughout recent years, it sounds like the tech mogul wants to provide anyone who has the cash with the opportunity to call Mars home, as soon as the option is physically possible. Even with Falcon Heavy in line to be a major component of Mars missions, the Red Planet’s composition and livability is not feasible for humans yet. Musk, his teams and NASA’s best still have plenty of investigation, exploration and preparation to complete before Mars could be inhabited without mission failure or death.
Musk hopes to provide the option of a one-way Mars ticket for under $1 million, and he undoubtedly has hundreds on the edge of their seats, waiting to see if such a grandiose chance could come to pass. Plans for the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) are already underway, and would be fleshed out to completion once SpaceX are further along their path of constructing rapidly and easily reusable rockets. As a company that has already facilitated numerous successful launches, there is virtually no doubt that SpaceX will continue pioneering all fronts of space travel. Since Mars goals are nearly all NASA seems to be concerned with these days, the success proven through SpaceX’s innovations will very likely be pivotal to future generations being able to call Mars home.
Opinion by Brad Johnson