Evangeline Colarossi—Staff Writer
“Did you hear about the guy who made a small fortune in the space industry? He started with a large one.”
The man behind that joke is named Elon Musk, who invested his fortune from PayPal into funding a new company, SpaceX, and is setting his sights on inhabiting Mars.
Musk, an entrepreneur at a young age, started several companies long before he founded SpaceX, a spacecraft manufacturer. He wanted to advance rocket technology and “reinspire the country to go to space again.” In a TED ED talk, Musk asked himself, “What are the things that need to happen in order for the future to be an exciting and inspiring one?” His own answer was to make humans a multi-planetary species.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 with the goal to create the ability to support human life on other planets. Since then, they have become the only private company to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). Using their aircraft, the Dragon, they have partnered with NASA to continue cargo shipments to the ISS. Dragon took its 13th load in December, delivering scientific research, crew supplies and equipment to the ISS.
SpaceX’s current project, Falcon Heavy, had its first test fire on Jan. 24. After several delays due to equipment, other launches and the brief government shutdown, the company fired up the rocket. It lifted off launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, rising into the air and settling back onto the pad after 12 seconds. In the following two weeks, the Falcon Heavy will be prepped for a real testing launch, set to take place on Feb. 6.
Falcon Heavy is a partially reusable rocket, something that is fairly new on the design front of space travel. Composed of three rockets strapped together, it can lift about 140,000 pounds of cargo into a low earth orbit. Musk intends to find a way to use reusable rockets to transport people to Mars, the next sustainable life planet. He predicts that the trip could take between 80 and 150 days, depending on the orbit.
Remember Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes, or perhaps green aliens drawn with huge black eyes? Many once wanted to be astronauts and see the Red Planet up close. If people are still interested in the 2060’s, they might get that chance. Musk intends to launch four spacecrafts in 2024 to take a crew to Mars to find the most reliable water sources and build a propelling plant to launch from during the following years.
“If we can understand how to create and maintain habitable spaces out of hostile, inhospitable places on Earth perhaps we can meet the needs of both preserving our own environment and moving beyond it,” Musk said.
With unbreathable air, poisonous soil and frozen water, Mars may not seem like the greatest place to move to, but SpaceX, NASA and China are all in pursuit of landing on Mars. There is no real way to tell who may reach the planet first.