Boeing v. SpaceX in a race to Mars

3Dsculptor / shutterstock
3Dsculptor / shutterstock

Do humans really need to make it to Mars? Space X and Boeing seem to think so – Elon Musk’s privatized space operation and the company that helped the United States of America defeat the USSR in the space race to the moon – as the two are pitting themselves against each other in a space race of their own, this time to Mars.

At a recent press conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced that his space company has realistic plans to colonize Mars within the coming decade, thus extending humanity into a multi-planetary species. Musk assured that SpaceX’s Mars mission wasn’t just audacious bloviating, as his Interplanetary Transport System would be able to take up to 100 people at a time to Mars.

A week after SpaceX’s Guadalajara conference, Boeing CEO and chairman Dennis Muilenburg announced that the century old aeronautics company had aspirations just as intrepid as Musk and SpaceX. Muilenburg stated that he believes the first person to set foot on Mars will “arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket.” While SpaceX has stolen the majority of the privatized space exploration headlines as of late with their successful and failed rocket launches, but that doesn’t mean the long-time government blue chip aeronautics partner has been resting on its laurels.

During the same press conference, Muilenburg laid out Boeing’s own daring plans to create a commercial space-travel market with dozens of destinations orbiting the Earth that could create a trans-orbital travel network that would enable as short as two hour long trips between continents. The near-Earth travel network is the primary focus of both Boeing and SpaceX, in order to “build out” interplanetary space infrastructure and slowly but surely lessen consumer hesitancy with relation to space travel.

Granted, space travel at the moment is nothing more than highly aspirational talk, as NASA has already spent $60 billion developing and flying a SLS rocket before even beginning to entertain the notion of sending astronauts anywhere in the solar system, much less space tourists. Unlike its overzealous privatized space cousins SpaceX and Boeing, NASA has stated that the nearest realistic interplanetary human transport won’t come until the late 2030s, when the government space organization intends to land four to six astronauts on Mars.

Nevertheless, Elon Musk and SpaceX have certainly ruffled some space exploratory feathers, as Musk’s Jetson’s like aspirations are becoming clearer in his dreamlike view, but not necessarily in reality. That being said, it’s enough to get Boeing’s wheels turning, and NASA concerning itself with extensive space exploration once more, so while Musk’s dream might not be the most realistic, it has revived a space race of a different kind – to Mars – and that’s all that us normal non-space exploring folks can hope for. The Space Race is back baby!

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Sean McHugh

Sean considers himself a poor man's polymath and finds solipsism amusing. Feel free to follow him on Twitter at @mchugh_sean, or not. That's fine.