In recent years, few events have captured the public imagination quite like the partnership between NASA and entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. This week, the two institutions announced their plans to launch a manned flight into space as early as next year, and for a public that is intrigued at the notion of commercial spaceflight, the news will undoubtedly come as a welcome surprise.
The road to a manned flight into space hasn’t always been an easy one for SpaceX. In recent years, the company has struggled to keep leader Elon Musk’s brash public persona from tarnishing SpaceX’s relationship with NASA; just last year, Musk’s public comments about Tesla stock prices led to his withdrawal from Tesla’s CEO position. Industry skeptics wondered if plans for SpaceX to pursue NASA contracts would be put on hold while Musk made peace with investors and board of directors; so far, that hasn’t been the case.
Indeed, true to his public image as an innovator, Musk spent the last year finalizing plans with NASA to collaborate on a new mission. It’s a move that could revolutionize the notion of commercial space travel in the United States and abroad, and it has Musk’s biggest supporters excited about the prospect of witnessing a new era of space exploration.
If Musk’s long-term vision is anything to go by, such an era could see a planned journey to Mars take place over the next decade. Musk has long had his sights on the Red Planet, and his work with NASA could easily prove to be a stepping stone to an interplanetary mission. Last month, the entrepreneur even released a plan for a SpaceX-developed rocket that is designed to reach planets like Mars, and it seems likely that the company will make planet-hopping one of its top priorities in the years to come.
How the relationship between NASA and SpaceX will play out in the public eye is anyone’s guess, but the unlikely pairing seems to already be bearing some interesting fruit. If everything goes to plan, SpaceX and NASA might just put a human being on Mars in the near future, and the stuff of science fiction could soon become a reality. For fans of futuristic technology, that would be very welcome news indeed.