Photo by Maria Koliopoulos
Opinion: Mars Will Soon Be Within Reach
Why colonization will be begin sooner than you might think
September 29, 2017
Many have called to the stars trying to find other life in the universe, but the call has been unanswered. We know that life on earth is unique, intelligent life even moreso. Humanity has only existing for a blink of the eye in the cosmos, and its existence is not guaranteed. At any moment something could happen to bring a mass extinction of life on earth: asteroids, nuclear war, or maybe a cataclysm we don’t even know about. Extinction is common and we are in a precarious place. Unless we begin to expand, humanity will eventually encounter an extinction event that will end us. Many groups have worked hard on moving past our planet and reaching nearby celestial beings. In 66 years humanity went from their first flight, to putting a man on the moon. SpaceX has set its eyes on Mars and has made some great advancements in the short time it’s been around. I think SpaceX is likely to begin colonization of mars within 10-25 years.
SpaceX has had an amazing history; going from nothing but a group of rocket engineers with a billionaire in a warehouse to a major launch provider that has set many firsts in the aerospace industry. They are one of the 5 groups to have gone to space and returned, the first commercial company to dock with the international space station, and the ONLY entity to have recovered an orbital class booster and fly it again. That last point is huge for both the aerospace industry and colonization of Mars.
Unlike their competitors, SpaceX isn’t bloated in spending. NASA has to outsource parts from all over the country in order to receive funding from the states, but that massively raises costs as well, creating a tight budget. ULA has little aspiration in space, besides launching satellites. They don’t innovate, instead, they buy Cold War-era rocket parts from Russia. SpaceX produces everything they fly in their own factory for a fraction of the price, on time, and to the high degree of quality required for rocketry. If you add the fact that SpaceX is able to reuse rockets, the price is a fraction of the those the competition offers. If you want to send thousands of people to mars, it needs to be at an achievable price.
SpaceX is always focused on the Mars mission. While generating income by launching satellites, they’ve been making advancements in rocket technology and practicing maneuvers that will be important for the mission. Some noteworthy developments include making the largest carbon-fiber fuel tank, producing the Raptor engine with a mind-blowing 99% chemical efficiency, and making a reusable rocket in order to slash the costs of going to space by up to three orders of magnitude. This has all happened in less than 15 years of the company’s existence, and it seems that its growth will be exponential. I say exponentially because SpaceX improves with every launch. Recently they’ve proved themselves able to launch once a week, an unheard of rate in the industry. They’re planning to be able to launch once per day after they construct their spaceport in southern Texas.
One criticism about SpaceX is that the company runs on “Elon time” that is, that the CEO oftentimes will announce outlandish timeframes and end up meeting their goals around 3 months, to possibly years, later. As of recently though the company has been closing that time gap and rapidly making progress. There are already several things coming up soon for SpaceX. Less than a month ago, they showed their amazing spacesuit design.
On Sept. 29th, SpaceX will provide an updated plan for their Mars missions. They’re going to unveil the new design for the Interplanetary Transport Ship, or the ITS. The ITS is going to be the spaceship to travel to Mars, and they expect it to travel even further beyond. The Falcon Heavy will be taking to the sky this November, opening up SpaceX to launch heavier and farther. The DragonV2 will the United States’ main spacecraft for sending American astronauts, alongside Boeing’s CST-100 by 2018. While they might arrive later than they’re planning, they’re very likely to be on mars much sooner than people think.