Boeing harbors grand ambition to reach Mars before SpaceX rocket

An artist's rendition of NASA's Space Launch System rocket in its latest configuration following its Critical Design Review. © NASA
The Boeing Company plans to send humans to Mars, with the aim of beating Tesla CEO Elon Musk in space exploration, travel and commerce.

“I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s CEO, said at a Chicago conference on innovation, Bloomberg reported.

Boeing has already made a name for itself in space technology, building the first stage for the most powerful US launch vehicle ever flown, the Saturn V – which took astronauts to the Moon.

Muilenburg says Boeing will continue to go great guns, envisaging space tourism “blossoming over the next couple of decades into a viable commercial market.”

The challenge for the International Space Station (ISS) is to get joined in low-Earth orbit by scores of hotels and factories, carrying out micro-gravity manufacturing and research, Muilenburg said, according to Bloomberg.

“I think it’s a fascinating area for us,” he noted, adding that Boeing be busy making spacecraft for the new era of tourists.

The aerospace giant is currently developing a heavy-lift rocket – NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) – set to become the most powerful rocket ever built, enabling diverse exploration, science and security missions. Boeing is the key contractor for the “design, development, test and production of the launch vehicle cryogenic stages, as well as development of the avionics suite.” 

Boeing, along with SpaceX, are the first commercial companies chosen by NASA to deliver astronauts to the ISS.

Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk created a buzz last week, saying he is burning the midnight oil with his SpaceX program to make it possible for anybody who wants to resettle on Mars to do so. He wants humans to become “a multi-planetary species.”

“What I want to do here is to make Mars seem possible, to make it seem that is something we can do in our lifetime, and that you can go,” the SpaceX CEO and lead designer told participants of the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“Is there a way for anyone to go if they wanted to?” Musk wondered.

Noting that of all the nearby celestial bodies, Mars and the moon are the most suitable, he said trips to Mars could occur every two years, with spaceships returned to Earth powered by methane mined on Mars and rockets refueling in orbit from rocket boosters.

A million people would be required to start a colony on Mars, according to Musk, adding that it would be a real challenge to fund the endeavor and some funds can come from servicing the space station and launching satellites and government and private investment.

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