SpaceX: The Road to Mars?

Article by: Angelo Manaloto

What have been the most important steps in the evolution of life? Obviously, there was the advent of single-cell life, the differentiation of plants and animals, life’s geographic permeation from oceans to land,  the development of varying degrees of consciousness, and the list goes on. But that life could become multi-planetary—who among us could even dream of such a thing? Well actually, everyone. But while it has been dreamt of, commercialized, and reincarnated ceaselessly in science-fiction, from Star Trek to WALL-E, only SpaceX has committed itself wholly to transforming this dream into a reality.

The vision of SpaceX reflects the vision of its founder Elon Musk, whose character is as remarkable as his contributions to humanity’s progress. To put it simply, Musk is Iron Man personified as the enigma on which Tony Stark is based. Rather appropriately, the terms “genius” as well as “rockstar” have become synonymous with his name around the world. In addition to SpaceX, Musk is the founder of three other companies – Tesla Motors, Zip2, and PayPal – not to mention the acting chairman of SolarCity and OpenAI. That all these companies have been groundbreaking in their own right is a testament to Musk’s visions of the world of tomorrow.

The heights to which these visions aspire are on full display with SpaceX, which has, ever since its inception in 2002, left a trail of firsts. The list includes the first privately developed spacecrafts—this had hitherto been only achieved by governments— to launch into orbit, to visit the International Space Station, and to enter the geosynchronous orbit. Its most recent achievement was not too long ago, on December 22, 2015, where it yet again took another first in the space industry by being the first company to launch a rocket into orbit and land it vertically on Earth.

This, like many of its other achievements, established the company as a force to be reckoned with in the space business. But the factor that has made it such a forerunner in the industry is its emphasis on doing as much of the engineering in-house, avoiding the cumbersome supply chains and unwieldy bureaucracy that have characterized the aerospace industry, thereby allowing for low-cost production. In 2016, SpaceX hopes to maintain its edge in the industry by working a bit more closely with NASA—which SpaceX has often found itself at odds with in the past—in order to secure funding for a Commercial Crew program, bringing it ever closer to meeting its goal of, as Musk puts it, “colonizing Mars.”

What does SpaceX mean for humanity then? It means that we are very well living in the era, in which the blur between science fiction and reality shall materialize. For those of us who enjoy cliches, it may even mean being able to “reach for the stars.”