Thanks to Space X, and others, the end of the shuttle is not the end of our efforts in space

SpaceX chief sets his sights on Mars
[Via Cosmic Log – Cosmic Log’s Column – Articles and Seeds]

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stands alongside rocket models at the National Press Club as he announces plans to build the Falcon Heavy rocket. Observers say the heavy-lift launch system could send an 11-ton payload to Mars.

By Alan Boyle

Don’t expect to hear any nostalgia about the soon-to-end space shuttle era from Elon Musk, the millionaire founder of Space Exploration Technologies. Musk isn’t prone to look to the past, but rather to the future — to a “new era of spaceflight” that eventually leads to Mars.

SpaceX may be on the Red Planet sooner than you think: When I talked with him in advance of the shuttle Atlantis’ last liftoff, the 40-year-old engineer-entrepreneur told me the company’s Dragon capsule could take on a robotic mission to Mars as early as 2016. And he’s already said it’d be theoretically possible to send humans to Mars in the next 10 to 20 years —  bettering NASA’s target timeframe of the mid-2030s.


You can’t always take Musk’s timelines at face value. This is rocket science, after all, and Musk himself acknowledges that his company’s projects don’t always finish on time. But if he commits himself to a task, he tends to see it through. “It may take more time than I expected, but I’ll always come through,” he told me a year ago.

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The public-private partnership that makes Space X work holds tremendous potential. Assuming it can stay on its present schedule, it could be providing materials to the space station soon. It could have a crew-worthy version ready in 4 years or so.

They are on a path to launch vehicles in just a few years that would lower the price to put a payload into space to $1000 a pound. These vehicles could also get a package sent off to the Moon or to Mars.

Here is hoping they are successful.