Heading to Mars (and beyond)

The Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) is one of SpaceX’s in-development rockets that is set to be part of CEO Elon Musk's Mars colonization plan. When Musk tweeted that the MCT would need a new name since it could “go well beyond Mars,” many of his followers came up with suggestions in an attempt find one that would do the project justice.

He even jumped in on the naming frenzy with his own suggestion: “Maybe Ultimate Spaceship, Version 2? Mostly because it is not the ultimate and there isn't a version 1.”

Recently, one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets exploded on its launchpad during a routine pre-launch test firing, reportedly due to a glitch in its helium pressurization system. SpaceX is being slapped with a $50-million bill (either that or a free flight) for the AMOS-6 satellite the Falcon 9 was carrying.

In spite of this hurdle, Musk is moving forward, and will be at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) tomorrow to present his speech entitled, "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.”

It’s becoming apparent that SpaceX is not the only company taking the Mars colonization plan seriously.

Artist's concept of Mars One astronauts and their habitat. Credit: Bryan Versteeg/Mars One

Only A Matter of Time

A few days ago, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016, a bill that ensures space exploration projects will be allocated a $19.508 billion budget for fiscal year 2017. It requires that NASA make it an official goal to send crewed missions to Mars in the next 25 years.

While NASA and SpaceX are collaborating on the Red Dragon capsule, NASA is building their own rocket (the biggest one ever) and aiming it at Mars. One contender in the race to Mars colonization is United Launch Alliance, whose Atlas V was selected by NASA for its Mars 2020 mission. Non-profit organization Mars One, another contender, declares that they “will establish the first human settlement on Mars.”

With the “when” of it all moving ever-so-closer, it’s only a matter of who will win the race to the Red Planet.

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