WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
The race for Mars is hotting up as Boeing enters the race.
Less than a week after SpaceX founder Elon Musk detailed his vision to get people to Mars Boeings CEO has intimated that the company plans to beat Musk – and everyone else for that matter – to the punch.
Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, and one of SpaceX’s biggest competitors casually loosed the remark during a session of The Atlantic’s “What’s Next?” conference.
“I’m convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket,” Muilenburg said and Boeing has good ground to stand on, including some Moon dust.
Afterall, it was the company that helped build the worlds most powerful rocket – the Saturn V – which blasted the Apollo missions and astronauts to the Moon. And, more recently NASA contracted Boeing to build its gargantuan Space Launch System (SLS) which will in 2018 will be capable of sending 20 metric tonnes of goods to Mars.
Meanwhile, SpaceX plans to debut its most powerful rocket yet the Falcon Heavy early in 2017 despite a recent launchpad explosion and ongoing investigation and that rocket will be able to ship 13 metric tonnes to Mars.
If the sweeping vision that Musk laid out during his keynote comes to fruition then SpaceX could start sending unmanned Dragon capsules to Mars as soon as 2018 and then begin landing the first people on the red planet in 2022. But, perhaps strangely – although it’s a mark of the man, Musk might not mind if Boeing rides the SLS to beat SpaceX.
“I really don’t have any other motivation for personally accumulating assets except to be able to make the biggest contribution I can to making life multi-planetary,” he said. Furthermore, when someone in the audience asked the billionaire polymath if he would be the first person on Mars, Musk expressed some ambivalence.
“I think it’s good for there to be multiple paths to Mars – to have multiple irons in the fire,” he said.
“I think it’s actually much better for the world if there are multiple companies or organisations building these interplanetary spacecraft. You know, the more the better. Anything, I think, that improves the probability of the future is good. And so multiple companies doing it, I think, would be great. So I wanted to come here to describe the architecture in the hopes that this would encourage companies and organisations around the world to perhaps do something like this,” he said.
“NASA applauds all those who want to take the next giant leap – and advance the journey to Mars. We are very pleased that the global community is working to meet the challenges of a sustainable human presence on Mars. This journey will require the best and the brightest minds from government and industry, and the fact that Mars is a major topic of discussion is very encouraging,” said a NASA spokesman.
“At NASA, we’ve worked hard over the past several years to develop a sustainable Mars exploration plan, and to build a coalition of international and private sector partners to support this vision. And we’ve made extraordinary progress implementing this plan, working with a number of international and private sector partners,” NASA went on to say.
Whatever happens though, whether future missions are successful or not, one thing is certain – we are on our way to becoming an interplanetary species and what was once the realm of sci fi, the role of the next generation is arriving, and arriving quicker than expected.