“This year, American astronauts will go back to space in American rockets.”
The live streams from SpaceX have much of their roots from the final launch of the Space Shuttle. Elon Musk and company have really invested in the story telling ability of their youtube channel, and it has paid huge dividends. With the hiring of a small army of talented producers and film makers, they have set the tone for live launch storytelling.
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, has released new details of his vision to colonise parts of the solar system, including Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. His gung ho plans – designed to make humans a multi-planetary species in case civilisation collapses – include launching flights to Mars as early as 2023.
When Elon Musk launched SpaceX in 2002, he did so with the intention of making reusability a central feature of his company. Designed to lower the costs associated with launches, being able to reuse boosters was also a means of making space more accessible. “If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes,” he said, “the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred.”
Mars is the future. It’s after all NASA’s current overarching goal to send humans to the Red Planet. But even as early as the 1950s, aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun, had published his vision of a mission to Mars in his book The Mars Project. We’ve also heard visions of settling the Red Planet under the leadership of a private organisation before. So why does Elon Musk get so much attention? And how feasible are his ideas?
Launching satellites, spacecraft and people into space is expensive because we only use our launch vehicles once. After delivering their payloads into orbit, our rockets either burn up in the atmosphere or crash into the ocean. Imagine how expensive a transatlantic flight would be if aircraft made only a single flight before being scrapped – this is the situation with the commercial space industry. Rocket fuel accounts for only 1,000th of the total launch cost, with the rest largely accounted for by the one-shot, disposable launch vehicle.