Musk Moves Closer to Mars Voyage
- SpaceX craft makes successful trip to ISS.
- First NASA launch from US since 2011.
- We’re one step closer to space travel for general public.
Founded in 2002, Elon Musk established his private venture SpaceX to “revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets” (SpaceX). Musk’s ambitions became one step closer to reality last weekend. after reaching a significant development milestone. A Falcon9 spacecraft, designed and manufactured by SpaceX, took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida carrying a 3-person crew and a test dummy nicknamed Ripley. The launch represents a major milestone for Musk and his ultimate goal of bringing space travel to the wider public.
NASA has provided funding to the value of $6.8bn to Boeing and SpaceX to develop a means of transporting American astronauts to the ISS. Since the retirement of the space shuttle programme in 2011, NASA had relied on Russian spacecraft to transport astronauts to the ISS, costing up to $80m per launch. A Falcon9 craft only costs $62m per launch in contrast.
Saturday’s launch continues a recent spell of success at SpaceX. The company has grown vastly from its humble beginnings nearly two decades ago. Starting with only 30 employees when founded, SpaceX now employs over 6,000 people across 7 locations in the US.
Headquartered in Hawthorne, California and currently valued at $30bn, SpaceX raised $250m in a private fundraising round recently, having established themselves as a major player in the space industry.
In 2018, the organisation saw out 20 successful launches, revolutionizing space travel and cutting costs significantly with new innovations in spacecraft design. In the same year, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa was announced as Musk’s first private passenger for a 5-day trip around the moon and back. Mr. Maezawa and “six to eight artists from around the world” (FT) are due to complete this expedition in 2023.
However, the journey has not always been so smooth for SpaceX. In 2016, an unsuccessful landing caused a Falcon9 to explode upon landing; only one of a number of incidents for the company which put future viability and success at risk. But Musk’s stoicism and belief in SpaceX paid off. The ‘Crew Dragon’ capsule, launched aboard the Falcon9, successfully docked at the ISS at roughly 01:02 GMT on March 3rd while the first stage of the rocket returned back to Earth, the unique selling point of the Falcon9.
The Falcon9 is the first rocket capable of reflight, a trait SpaceX believes can reduce the immense costs associated with space travel and will eventually allow humans to make interplanetary journeys.
The launch on March 2nd is the next step in SpaceX achieving its ultimate goal; to transport members of the public into space aboard their vehicles.
There is still some ground to be covered before members of the public can begin taking these journeys with SpaceX. Ripley, the test dummy who made the trip to the ISS, was fitted with a number of sensors to monitor the effects of space travel on the human body and analyse how the trip might feel for potential future SpaceX customers, bringing us one step closer to commercial trips into outer space. Hoping to begin shuttling supplies to Mars by 2022, Musk expects to launch the first human voyage to the red planet by 2024.