Today NASA announced its plans to contract with SpaceX, a private company headed by Elon Musk, to transport astronauts to the International Space Station for the second time. This signals the beginning of a new age of space travel, as private companies begin to take on a role previously held exclusively by government agencies such as NASA, with SpaceX leading the pack.
SpaceX made headlines in 2012 when it became the first private company to make a manned trip into space, two years after it became the first private company to successfully return a rocket from low-Earth orbit. Its CEO, Elon Musk, is famous for his goal of getting humans living on Mars sometime in the next two decades, a timetable far ahead of most other feasible projects.
Getting a human colony on Mars has been a tenet of science fiction ever since the genre began, but it’s finally starting to seem like it could become a reality in the future, as SpaceX recently announced plans to begin its program by landing its Dragon module on Mars by 2018. Its collaboration with NASA is also seen as a good sign, with scientists such as Philip Metzger saying that “I believe it is completely feasible. No miracle inventions are required. No new physics. Just straightforward engineering and a modest budget for the development cost.”
As SpaceX continues to expand its manned missions, we should look forwards to beginning to see how feasible this quintessential human dream might become in the near future.