Private space travel: A new future for humanity?

SpaceX, a private space exploration company headed by Elon Musk, successfully landed a Falcon rocket this week.

REUTERS/Joe Skipper
A remodeled version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the launcher’s first mission since a June failure in Cape Canaveral, Florida, December 21, 2015. The rocket carried a payload of eleven satellites owned by Orbcomm, a New Jersey-based communications company. The first stage returned to land following launch.

Monday marked a historic moment for SpaceX, established in 2002 by Elon Musk to explore the possibility of finding a hospitable environment off Earth.

In the first successful space launch after two failed attempts, the Falcon 9 took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in a two-stage launch, first deploying 11 spacecraft for the satellite-communications company Orbcomm, and then performing three “boostback burns,” before returning to Cape Canaveral

The event did more than just mark the beginning of a non-government funded space exploration – it marked the beginning of a grander vision to explore space as a potential outlet for survival. 

Mr. Musk, a former PayPal entrepreneur and CEO of Tesla Motors, founded SpaceX with the idea of creating cheaper private space travel and potentially finding a way to colonize on Mars.

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before,” said Musk in a statement in June. “That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.” 

Exploring life on other planets – especially Mars – has been of interest to many space-venturing companies. NASA spent $125 million on the Mars Climate Orbiter, launched from Cape Canaveral in 1998, when it spent nine months traveling to Mars before burning up due to what was later discovered to be a miscalculation.

Other private companies have also been talking about launching similar missions. Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp markets one-way tickets to Mars, and “plans to finance his venture by turning it into a reality TV epic – think Survivor meets The Truman Show meets The Martian Chronicles,” according to the New Yorker. Others, such as Eric Anderson’s Space Adventures, has already planned private visits to the International Space Station for $52 million. 

But SpaceX is the first private company to successfully launch a rocket into space – at the cost of $16 million. Musk is hopeful, however, that the company will find cheaper ways to travel.

“The cost of the propellant is only about $200,000,” Musk said during a press conference. “So that means that the potential cost reduction in the long term is probably in excess of a factor of a hundred.” 

Still, while many have their eyes on Mars, Musk has no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead. 

"It will be super hard to do this, and it will take a lot of time," he said at AGU last week. "I suspect I probably won't live to see it become self-sustaining."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Private space travel: A new future for humanity?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today