SpaceX: To Mars and Beyond (Unabridged)
The desire to renew the public’s interest in space is what drove Elon Musk to start SpaceX. Founded in 2002, the overarching goal of SpaceX is to reduce the cost of space transportation and make the colonization of Mars a viable goal. The expensiveness of space travel has naturally been a big deterrent to NASA’s goals as it struggles to receive funding from Congress. What is needed is innovation in a number of space technologies to address that issue. The difficulty is twofold in this regard. In order to foster this kind of innovation, funding is needed to attract such talent. But large expenditures require the kind of public relations and spectacle that can only be attracted by large-scale missions – conducting experiments without an end result that can wow the public by a certain date is a pitch that is hard to make stick. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is aiming to provide a private sector solution to this stagnation caused by lack of funding. SpaceX’s goals were born from an earlier roadblock to Elon Musk’s space aspirations. In 2001, Musk had the idea for a project called “Mars Oasis.” The idea was to land a greenhouse on Mars that contained seeds and dehydrated gel. Once the experimental garden reached Martian soil, the gel would be hydrated. For Musk, the fact that this would be the furthest life has ever traveled from Earth would renew the public’s interest in NASA and lead to an increase in NASA’s budget. The issue was that getting to Mars was prohibitively expensive and virtually impossible without radical innovations in rocket technology. That same year Musk enlisted Jim Cantrell and Adeo Ressi to travel with him to Russia in order to buy Dnepr rockets that could be used to shoot the payload into space. Dnepr rockets are refurbished intercontinental ballistic missiles, also known as ICBMs. Though ICBMs are most commonly known for their nuclear bomb delivery, they also have other applications. A Dnepr rocket can be designed to launch satellites into orbit. The idea was to use this technology to send Musk’s greenhouse to Mars instead.