A Great Leap for Capitalism: SpaceX Eyes Historic Launch, and Eventually Mars

The SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to make a demonstration launch this Saturday to the International Space Station, an important milestone in the private space race. And yet, SpaceX founder Elon Musk isn't content. He's eying Mars, with or without NASA. 

Elon Musk is going to Mars. With or without NASA.


Of course, the ambitious former PayPal entrepreneur who founded SpaceX in 2002 has to take one step at a time. A very important first step, indeed a milestone, will happen this Saturday, May 19 at 4:55 a.m, when the SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to make a demonstration launch as part of SpaceX's contract with NASA to launch cargo to the International Space Station. 

No humans will be launched into space on this mission. That is the next phase in the for-profit space race in which celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Bratt Pitt and Angelina Jolie will get to take Virgin Galactic's "suborbital joy rides."

What's the Big Idea?

As Elon Musk recently told The New York Times, a suborbital adventure or even the two hundred mile trip to the International Space Station represent baby steps compared to a trip to Mars, which is millions of miles away. However, the price improvement curve is heading in the right direction. Currently the Russians charge NASA $60 million a seat to get an astronaut to the space station. SpaceX is looking to cut that cost to one-third, or $20 million. And Musk is even dreaming much bigger than that, predicting (or calculating, as he puts it) that within a decade or so after the initial trip to Mars -- in which NASA may or may not be the client -- the price tag would be $500,000. 

While some critics, notably the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, have said this is the stuff of fantasy, Elon Musk has a great track record for predicting where technology is going, and where opportunities will arise in different industries, including space.

How does Musk spot these opportunities?

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

As we look at the evolution of the space industry, the major funding is coming from governments and private companies financed by billionaires (the space mining company Planetary Resources is another prime example).

And so the question remains, who will lead? Currently the private space companies like SpaceX are feasting off government contracts. And yet, continued funding in Congress is anything but a sure bet. That is why entrepreneurs like Musk realize the NASA gravvy train is not a likely way to get to Mars, at least anytime soon. That is why he has set out to do it by himself.

“I’m not going to try to convince people I can do it,” he told The Times. “I’m just going to do it.” 

Image courtesy of SpaceX/Chris Thompson

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

This prophetic 1997 Jeff Bezos interview explains the genius behind Amazon

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, explains his plan for success.

Technology & Innovation
  • Jeff Bezos had a clear vision for Amazon.com from the start.
  • He saw the innovative potential of the online marketplace.
  • Bezos explains why books, in particular, make for a perfect item to sell on the internet.
Keep reading Show less
Promotional photo of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
Surprising Science
  • It's commonly thought that the suppression of female sexuality is perpetuated by either men or women.
  • In a new study, researchers used economics games to observe how both genders treat sexually-available women.
  • The results suggests that both sexes punish female promiscuity, though for different reasons and different levels of intensity.
Keep reading Show less

TESS telescope has found eight new planets, six supernovae

It has found several bizarre planets outside of our solar system.

NASA/Kim Shiflett
Surprising Science
  • The Kepler program closed down in August, 2018, after nine and a half years of observing the universe.
  • Picking up where it left off, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has already found eight planets, three of which scientists are very excited about, and six supernovae.
  • In many ways, TESS is already outperforming Kepler, and researchers expect it to find more than 20,000 exoplanets over its lifespan.
Keep reading Show less