The Solar System is our oyster (for now, at least) when it comes to the next step in space exploration, but it certainly seems all dreams are set on one thing: manned missions to Mars.
Dennis Muilenburg, President and CEO of Boeing, has recently stepped up to the plate and vowed his company has what it takes to trump all his rivals when it comes to shipping humans to Mars.
Of course, Boeing isn't creating its own spacecraft to land on the surface. But it is helping NASA build the Space Launch System (SLS), a huge new rocket that will send humans to Mars in the 2030s. And, it seems Boeing's CEO thinks this mission will happen before others, namely SpaceX.
Muilenburg went on to express hopes for commercial space-travel to multiple destinations in the Solar System, as well as hypersonic airplanes that could hop halfway across Earth in a few hours.
He added that space tourism will be “blossoming over the next couple of decades into a viable commercial market.”
Boeing is probably best known for its commercial passenger airplanes. But this century-old multinational is the world’s largest aerospace company with an established history of working alongside NASA as a contractor. For explain, they built the first stage of Saturn V, the rocket that took astronauts to the Moon.
Muilenburg's proclamation comes just one week after Elon Musk revealed SpaceX’s grandiose plans to colonize Mars at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico. He proposed launching 100 people at a time to the Red Planet on the SpaceX-built Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), which would be the biggest rocket ever flown. Bold plans, indeed. But most optimistic of all, Musk says he wants to launch it in 10 years time, at some point after 2024.
Some have said the SpaceX plan is overly ambitious, if not totally unrealistic – something which is often said of SpaceX and Musk's other ventures. Boeing, with their experience and financial clout, will certainly turn up the pressure one more notch.
But whatever way you shake it, the corporate rivalries and politics behind the rush for Mars pale in comparison to the wider benefits it will bring for humanity, science, and the future. In the meantime, the drama certainly makes for exciting viewing.