The New Space Race
Updated: May 9, 2021
Since the first Moon landing in 1969, humanity as a whole has advanced far beyond what was imagined in the ’60s. Regardless of our other accomplishments, it has been almost 50 years since anyone has set foot on the Moon due to a lack of government funding. This is because space exploration is expensive, and without the competitive incentive of beating the Soviets, the American government has had no interest in returning. Thankfully, in 2021 the space race looks much different now, instead of countries competing for the first to set a flag on the moon, corporations are now competing to be the first to colonize Mars.
The motivation is no longer glory, these space enterprises are in it to make money, and by doing so they are pushing space technology to a new level. A leader in the field, SpaceX, was the first to land and reuse a rocket, thanks to the new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Through their cameras and other sensors, the AI is capable of viewing the environment and adjusting the rocket’s falling speed and rotation perfectly, slowing the rockets down until they’re almost floating in mid-air right before landing softly on the ground. With this technology, SpaceX has made ambitious plans to send a manned space ship to Mars by the year 2026. Something that would have been unfeasible due to the old one-time use of rockets of the past. Regardless, billionaire Elon Musk (SpaceX’s CEO) is hopeful that they will reach their targets and beat the competition to colonizing Mars.
Musk proposed his plan for colonizing Mars back in 2017 in which he stated the plan was to create a large rocket big enough to carry 100 metric tons, double that of the average rocket. This rocket would be large enough to carry up to 100 passengers and some cargo to Mars. However, before this becomes practical they would require a way to refuel the rockets outside of the earth’s atmosphere. So how could this be done? Rather than creating a large and expensive space station for refuels, they plan to create a station on the Moon, this will act as a gas station on the way to Mars. Since escaping the Moon’s orbit is much easier than the stronger gravity and thicker atmosphere on Earth, this conserves more fuel for the actual flight to Mars.
Today, plans for the Moonbase are already on the way with SpaceX having made a deal with NASA to bring astronauts to the moon for longer terms. The deal includes 2.9 billion dollars in exchange for use of Space X’s reusable rockets and to develop a commercial human lander (a small spacecraft designed to hold humans and safely land them on planets). However the deal has been made, competitors are not so pleased, one company, Blue Origin (Amazon’s space program) has publicly protested the situation stating NASA’s decision was flawed and that it ignored the advantages of Blue Origin’s proposal. Though, unlike SpaceX, Blue Origin hasn’t had any of its rockets leave the Earth’s orbit as of yet so it is unlikely that their cries will get any attention from the government.
Regardless of what happens, this will be the first time anyone has walked on the moon in almost 50 years and it will be a great learning experience for all the companies with their eyes on Blue Origin in the coming future.