Elon Musk is helping NASA to put Americans on Mars. The agency has been planning to return to the moon and to put men on the red planet, but they are not sure when it is going to happen.

Musk created SpaceX to revolutionize space travels. For many, getting to Mars and populate it might sound like a crazy idea taken from a futuristic science fiction movie, but these are Musk’s ambitions.

Image credit: Scifipie.me / NASA
Image credit: Scifipie.me / NASA

“Our nation will return to the moon and we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” US vice president Mike Pence said last week in a speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Musk wants humanity to be a multi-planetary species

SpaceX was created by Elon Musk in 2002 with visionary objectives like starting commercial travels to space, populating other planets, re-utilizing space shuttles and more. Obviously, Musk has been a little too ambitious sometimes and has fallen short to meet its launch deadlines, because space engineering is not an easy task.

However, SpaceX has grown so much and has contributed a lot to this industry. Therefore, a man as visionary and fearless when it comes to risks as Musk could be just the kind of partner NASA needs to accomplish all the set goals.

Trump’s administration has reiterated it wants NASA to get a manned capsule to the moon again and it wants American to step on Mars too. However, the thing gets complicated with all the resources that are being drained by other projects. This has delayed the construction of required aspects for manned missions as the proper habitat to carry astronauts and the technology to land a capsule on another planet with humans inside.

“I can’t put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is … we don’t have the surface systems available for Mars,” NASA human exploration chief William Gerstenmaier said on an engineering society panel this week. “And that entry, descent, and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars.”

SpaceX was created by Elon Musk in 2002. Image credit: NASA
SpaceX was created by Elon Musk in 2002. Image credit: NASA

This is where Elon Musk’s technology can come very handy. SpaceX’s rockets can return safely to Earth using rocket engines. With SpaceX’s data, NASA can have a better understanding on how to land on Mars. As well, NASA is supporting the launch of one of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the red planet. If it succeeds in the mission, it would become the heaviest object to be sent to Mars.

NASA has been part of the success of SpaceX since it has help Musk do what he loves the most: making history with his unconventional ideas. On the other hand, SpaceX can help the agency to innovate, which is sometimes difficult in every organism that is related to the federal government.

NASA’s Public-Private partnership program

Yesterday, SpaceX senior vice president Tim Hughes proposed to establish a new public-private partnership between NASA and Musk’s space company, similar to the one that allowed SpaceX develop its rockets while NASA could send the required supplies to the International Space Station. This partnership was called the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS.  Through this program, NASA contracted SpaceX to fly supplies to the ISS at a rather low cost. It wasn’t a perfect partnership for it had its own delays. What was impressive was the return of the investment because the $500 million investment permitted the creation of two Rockets. One of them was SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and the other one was Orbital ATK’s Antares.

SpaceX said that this kind of partnership is the most cost effective solution to achieve the goal of NASA and the country in general in the space.  Plus, the other big project of NASA – Its deep-space rocket – started in 2010 and the rocket won’t fly until 2019.

This new public-private partnership would also mean that NASA would have less control over the final product, which was different from COTS that was based on competition, where the two companies had assigned performance goals.

SpaceX proposes Partnerships to travel to Mars

Hughes also recommended NASA to create a COT-like program that allows companies to develop rockets for commercial trips to the moon or the red planet, or to take sophisticated communication networks. This initiative would beneficiate a lot of space and aerospace companies. In fact, Hughes said that NASA should apply the same conditions of the programs for low earth capability for deep-space exploration.

This was previously proposed at the International Astronautical Congress, in Guadalajara, Mexico. Musk presented a plan to lower the cost of travels to Mars to colonize this planet. The cost of this idea is way too high for Musk now, but it can be possible and feasible if they count with the support of the government.

“There’s a lot of people in the private sector who are interested in helping fund a base on Mars, and perhaps there will be interest on the government sector side to do that,” Musk said last fall.

Source: Space.com