The Ultimate Recycling Program. Oh, and Mars…

Elon Musk is known to be an innovator – with companies like Zip2, X.com (which became PayPal), Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, SolarCity, and many other companies that offer not always new, but mostly revolutionary products. Today we look at SpaceX:

Elon Musk wanted, and still wants, to go to Mars. Most people that want to go to another planet simply write a book, or build their own imaginary space-faring civilizations as they dose off to sleep. But not Elon. Especially since he has more money than he could otherwise use. Of course, when he founded SpaceX, he was merely a multi-millionaire, not a billionaire.

He founded SpaceX with only US$100million (plus other investments) of his own money, which is the kind of investment I would dream of for my own company, but is pretty much nothing when your main service is taking things on one-way trips into sub-orbit. That aside, Musk also juggled Tesla and SpaceX at times when neither company was doing overly well, and yet managed to save both from bankruptcy. He even keeps both companies from going under despite massive losses – no small feat by any measure.

SpaceX survives today as one of the only independent launch companies in the world, with their only non-government-backed competitor being Arianespace in France. SpaceX has revolutionized the space exploration industry, with a recycled Falcon 9 rocket launching into space later this month. Many of the technologies used by SpaceX are not in fact new technologies, but simply reusable.

The Falcon 9 allows clients to launch satellites for a fraction of the cost, because the rocket is not expended after its first launch, but rather, is fully reusable. Sadly, it isn’t electric. Awesome as that would be, ion propulsion isn’t quite there for atmospheric launch yet.

Coming on the agenda of SpaceX is the first manned mission to Mars; and they aren’t the only company that is working on it either. The space race is back on, as Digital Trends reporter Bill Roberson puts it. The prize: a big ball of rust with little atmosphere floating in a gigantic vacuum chamber. This is like the 80’s sci-fi movie Weird Science if all of the characters were congressmen and crazy billionaires…

SpaceX concept art of a manned spaceship launching for the Red Planet from Cape Canaveral. Source: http://globetrendermagazine.com

Anyway, the technology that will ultimately make manned space flights to Mars possible is the reusable rockets made by SpaceX and other, similar products, with current rockets likely becoming the platform on which a manned Mars-bound spaceship is built. There is one sticking point on Elon Musk’s idea; terraforming.

Musk has said on multiple occasions that in order to make Mars safe for human colonisation, one would need to drop thermonuclear weapons on the poles. A spokesperson for NASA said “We are also committed to promoting exploration of the solar system in a way that protects explored environments as they exist in their natural state.” according to the LA Times, and many scientists have disagreed with Musk on other grounds, too.

There remains work to be done, and even if it never happens, research into colonising the Red Planet will continue to fascinate future generations. Efforts made in our age may even inspire people at a time when technology is a little more accommodating…

It would be great to get some discussion going in the comments below, so feel free to leave your thoughts. Don’t forget to subscribe!