Aerospace giant Boeing has set its sights on beating Elon Musk’s SpaceX to Mars.
Company CEO Dennis Muileberg gave a wide reaching address at a conference this week and laid bare his plans to take a commercial rocket to Mars before SpaceX can get there.
“I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Muilenburg said. This will not sit well with Musk, who has been forced to Chevy bring the Bolt to market and produce the first mass market electric car with a 200-mile range.
Not the Mars dream, too…
Tesla’s Model 3 is a year away at least and Musk’s mission to make man a multi-planetary species, which he announced last week, created a massive buzz. Now Boeing is threatening to take the South African-born billionaire’s biggest dream from him, or at least beat him to the punch.
Boeing has a similar deal to Tesla with NASA, to take astronauts and freight to the International Space Station. It, too, is working on commercial space travel and wants to take tourists into space and then go much further than the Earth’s atmosphere. The manufacturer of the 787 Dreamliner is working with NASA to create the heavyweight Space Launch System that could take us into uncharted territory in deep space.
On the surface, Musk welcomed this competition from one of the biggest aerospace giants in the world. Privately, he might not be so happy about a company with Boeing’s rich pedigree and vast R&D facilities stepping up to the plate in dramatic fashion.
The Chicago-based contributed to Saturn V, the most powerful rocket in US history, which launched 13 times without any loss of crew or payload. Boeing contributed the first stage for the rocket that was responsible for man landing on the moon in 1969 and a raft of other missions.
Contrast that with the recent SpaceX failure to launch at Cape Canaveral and you can understand why Boeing could prove an overbearing presence. Space exploration is hard, but Musk has endured several high-profile failures and if one of the world’s biggest aviation and aerospace companies is waiting in the wings then that can only crank up the pressure on SpaceX.
Hotels in space?
The aerospace giant isn’t as fixated with building a life on Mars, though, and sees space as a new holiday destination for the well-heeled. Boeing believes that a wealth of high-end hotels will join the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. We’ll have to assume these will offer all-inclusive deals, as stepping off the resort could have disastrous consequences.
Boeing isn’t even the only one. Lockheed Martin Corp is building the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 that can hit 13,000mph, or Mach 20, that could potentially join the space race or just transfer passengers from Los Angeles to New York in 12 minutes. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is gathering pace and it could prove a real thorn in Musk’s side, too.
Boeing is just as keen to explore intercontinental transport and the X-51A WaveRider uses its own shock wave for lift. It hit speeds of Mach 5.1 in 2013, but the cost means that the company cannot simply put this concept into production just yet. In any case, the rocket is unmanned and Boeing would need to redesign it completely to handle the 100 passengers that Musk wants to take on his travels to the Red Planet.
What will Boeing do when it gets there?
The company really hasn’t said what it wants to do when it arrives on Mars and it needs a back-up plan as the rocket almost certainly cannot turn round and come right back. Elon Musk presented a much more compelling story, but you can never rule out a firm of Boeing’s size when it comes to getting the job done.
All we know is that the mainstream manufacturers are going after Musk’s dreams once again and the commercial space market is going to get real congested. We also know he will have a real fight on his hands if he wants the first commercial passengers heading to Mars to buy one of his $100,000 tickets.