The Chase and Mission to Mars with SpaceX

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Since the first human landed on the moon the next question on everyone’s mind was where to next? The next step soon became decided as mars. Many of the active space programs are all working in way or another to get a human to the surface of mars. Space travel is a very expensive and dangerous venture as everything has to go perfectly right in order for a mission to be safe and successful. When a spacecraft is void of human life the only precaution is to avoid the loss of money, but the second a soul is involved the stakes are raised. It is very hard for us to pinpoint a date for the first man on mars. With a mind like elon Musk’s behind a successful space travel business it is very feasible to say we could be on mars within a decade.

It seems that you hear about a new mission from SpaceX every week and this is probably because it is kind of the case. Since elon musk founded SpaceX in 2002 they have constantly been inventing and testing new ideas. SpaceX is consistently ahead of the game with new groundbreaking concepts. From restocking missions to the International Space Station to Terraforming mars there is no mission too small or too large for SpaceX. The first mission to put SpaceX on the map was the Falcon 1. The falcon 1 successfully launched in september of 2008 making it “the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach earth orbit.” (SpaceX, 2019). This showed to many that space exploration doesn’t need to be ran by different governments. Since 2008 every year has been an eventful one, the following year 2009 Nasa awarded SpaceX a 1.6 billion dollar contract. Mid 2009 SpaceX’s falcon rocket continued to make history on its fifth flight by being the first private rocket to deliver a commercial satellite to orbit. The following year their newer rocket falcon 9 had its first completed flight. One of the main aspects that sets SpaceX apart from other organizations is their focus on conservation. While they are not afraid to go all out they think saving on money can help for future missions. SpaceX is very adamant that reusable rockets are the future of space exploration. By reusing rockets and capsules it greatly reduces the cost as the only cost after initial build would be repairs and refueling. Nasa has reused space shuttles before but never to this scale. Reusability wasn’t the only tactic used in order to reduce mission cost. Being a private company allows SpaceX to reach out to other options for funding.

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Without tax dollars they had to look for other options for funding their expeditions.By contracting out their rockets they are able to help others as well as make more money. SpaceX has constant launches as different organizations and companies pay them to launch new satellites. The most recent mission was sending the crew dragon capsule to the ISS, this was also a new feat as it was “the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory.” (SpaceX, 2019). As contracts keep pouring into the company they are finally able to broaden their horizons. SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk has a dream for the company that goes beyond our atmosphere. He dreams for space travel to be a much more casual event. He already has plans in place as well as a customer for space tours. Unlike the ride in Disneyland this ride will take course over an entire week from takeoff to touchdown. The rocket necessary for this trip has yet to be built. The B.F.R rocket for this mission would cost billions of dollars to design and build but it is intended to eventually carry as much as one hundred people to mars. Musk is very hopeful but a project of this size takes time and more importantly money. “The rocket would not be ready for the trip until 2023, Mr. Musk said, and would cost from $2 billion to $10 billion to develop.” (Nytimes.com, 2019). While great strides are being made towards making space travel a tourist attraction Musk has one thing on his mind in the end.

Whether it is through various tweets and interviews Elon will constantly bring up his fascination with Mars. By visiting the SpaceX website you are already able to see constant pictures of videos of future mars trips. Although it is uncomplete the B.F.R will be able to carry many passengers and tons of cargo to and from mars. The B.F.R is the most extreme rocket Musk has attempted yet. SpaceX lives by the dream of a space bearing civilization.“SpaceX was founded under the belief that a future where humanity is out exploring the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one where we are not.” (SpaceX, 2019). This mission is So far the most important to Elon yet as he has stated numerous times he hopes to spend the rest of his life on the red planet “SpaceX is actively developing the technologies to make this possible, with the ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars.” (SpaceX, 2019). The B.F.R. rocket named Starhopper has been in the works for a long time and it is reportedly ready for a test flight this week. This is not a full length test flight but merely a test of the recently installed raptor rocket. With the installation of this rocket SPaceX can now test for critically important data and information. They are pushing this ship and rocket very hard very early on as they would rather overtest and end up with a safe product rather than a catastrophic failure on this is due to the fact that “The launch vehicle is meant to safely, routinely, and reliably transport as many as one hundred plus people both around the Earth and solar system.” (Ralph, 2019). In order to make the vehicle safer and more cost effective a lot of changes had to be made small and major. The most important change to the ship was the actual material that it is made out of. As is customary with most ships it was intended to be built from carbon fiber. While carbon fiber is very light and very strong it does not fare well with heat.

While most steels deal very well with heat they can also shatter like glass in extreme cold. Musk looked for an alternative material and he was able to find it back in his earlier models. One of Musks earlier ships the Atlas was made out of stainless steel but never efficiently. The way the atlas was Built it collapsed under its own weight almost every try. Since Atlas musk has become much more clever and aware of the work he does allowing for stainless steel to now be a viable option. Carbon fiber is very expensive and also very wasteful as you could not use every piece of the cut metal. With stainless steel you are able to use almost all of it and it comes at a much smaller cost. An additional benefit to using stainless steel is it will not need as much heat shielding even further lowering the construction cost. This will also accelerate the mission as stainless steel is a much easier material to work with opposed to carbon fiber. Although it had its backlash and it took awhile to convince his team members they came to agree with him on this monumental change. Elon seems very optimistic about this decision. The significance of this rocket is very very heavy as this is the primary shuttle that is supposed to take humans to start life on mars.

There are many organizations and countries turning towards the sky. With the great advancement in technology its becoming easier and cheaper to travel the solar system. Arguably at the forefront of this all is Elon Musk and his crew at SpaceX. It is becoming less of a dream and more of a reality that someday we will reside and watch the sunset from the surface of the red planet.

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