Boeing once helped America beat the Soviet Union in a race to the moon. Now, in an era of dwindling space budgets, who will continue to carry the U.S. flag into space?
Two companies are jockeying to be that flag bearer, and the race is heating up. Representatives of Boeing have told reporters they want to beat SpaceX and reach Mars before Elon Musk does. Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg held a conference October 4 that explained the company’s vision of the future of human spaceflight, with Boeing being the frontrunner.
Like other space-oriented companies, Boeing sees the first battlefield of the 21st century space race playing out in the space tourism business. But Boeing admits the real test is the one Elon Musk set for his company: reaching Mars. However, Boeing believes it can beat SpaceX to the Red Planet.
“I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said.
The company is currently working with NASA in developing the Space Launch System. Meanwhile, SpaceX is banking on its Falcon Heavy rocket to reach Mars. Musk has set a 2018 deadline for an unmanned mission to Mars, and 2025 for its manned mission.
These two companies have actually been fighting over more than just the race to Mars. They are also the two companies in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program – the program responsible for ferrying NASA’s astronauts to the ISS. Currently, NASA relies on Russian rocket launches to reach the space station, but it wants something a little closer to home. SpaceX seems to be winning that competition, but whoever come out on top is immaterial, since NASA said it will be using both companies for regular transport to the ISS.
In the end, the conclusion of the race to Mars has a similar sentiment. Whether the first mission will be on a SpaceX rocket or a Boeing rocket, reaching the Red Planet will be a huge milestone for humanity.