The inspirational and eloquent maxim:
To boldly go where no man has gone before
from the world famous and highly acclaimed Television series ‘Star Trek of the sixties, the brainchild of visionary producer Gene Roddenberry which was later turned into full-length feature films, drew massive inspiration and fan following which seems to be rising to this very day.
The success of the Star Trek movies and series created a sensation so much so that fans of the movies formed their own group called ‘Ttrekkies’ and every year a Star Trek convention is held in the USA.
Space, referred to as the “last frontier’ with its inherent mysteries has always fascinated man and right from the early sixties with the advancement of technology there has been a Race for Space so to speak.
The Americans competed with the Russians and it was the vision of President John. F. Kennedy that The USA would put a man on the moon before the end of the sixties.
True to his prophecy, Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20th, 1969 and Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the surface of the moon with the famous chant ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ .
Space travel and exploration are exorbitantly expensive, so much as that in the early sixties and seventies, only The USA and the former Soviet Union were engaged in this field.
Over time other countries like India, China, The European Space agency all started sending rockets into space for weather data, communication and television satellites, Topography etc.
It is only after the turn of the millennium that the private sector has become involved in space travel and exploration for although the commercial benefits may be high the cost of launching a spaceship into deep space is absolutely staggering .
It takes vision, daring, creativity , an adventurous spirit and the boldness of rising to the challenge to venture into such celestial pursuits.Two people worthy of being singled out in the context of commercial space travel space need special mention here as both are visionaries with a dynamic and charismatic disposition, true leaders in their respective enterprises.
The first is Sir Richard Branson, CEO, and Chairman of the Virgin group of companies comprising 400 company with his latest venture Virgin Galactic. As the name suggests Virgin Galactic is a commercial enterprise opening up space travel to all those interested and able to pick the price tag. Although It has not kicked off yet, intrepid travelers have already started forming a beeline to book space for travel in the future.
However, a sad aspect of the Branson’s venture has been the fatal crash of one of its prototype the VSS Enterprise, a Virgin Galactic Scaled Composite Model 339 Spaceship Two experimental spaceflight test vehicle, which suffered a catastrophic in-flight breakup and crashed in the Mojave desert in California, USA.
Investigations revealed that it was an error of the copilot who unlocked the tail of the spacecraft in mid-flight causing the crash. The co-pilot Michael Alsbury died in the crash. This was a major setback for Branson as the accident cast a shadow of doubt on space tourism. However, the British entrepreneur has not lost heart and the project has not been aborted the space ship rebuilt with a savvy new design and innovative features are attracting large bookings.
The other dynamic and visionary entrepreneur can best be described as a genius and highly successful businessman who at the relatively young age of 45 has set up billion dollar companies, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, the first mass producing electric cars, the roadster, model S and model X and the other SpaceX, a spaceship company transporting in cargo payload. The man is Elon Musk, a South African born, Canadian. American for whom it so seems that the Sky is not even the limit.
He is the man who wears many hats, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO of Tesla Motors, Co-founder and chairman of Solar city and two or three other companies. Musk has tremendous vision and is willing to rise to the challenge for his aim is to change humanity and the world. His goal comprises reducing global warming by producing and consumption of sustainable energy.
Furthermore, he believes in making life multi-planetary by establishing a human colony on the planet Mars. His Company Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, better known as Space X, based in Hawthorne, California , is an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services already exploring and experimenting with technologies to enable them to prepare for the colonization of Mars.
It has already developed the space vehicles Falcon I and Falcon 9 which are designed to be reusable. Its Dragon spacecraft has been used to supply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). A manned version of Dragon is in development.
Musk believes that his program to colonize Mars will be possible in the next 9 years and his company will put the first man on Mars by 2025. The missions are sure to be hard, risky, dangerous, difficult according to Musk but he seems confident that in the in the pioneer spirit of the people they will get there.
Just as with the establishment of the English colonies, there are people who love that. They want to be the pioneers. Much like some of their ancestors, these brave men and women would embark on a perilous journey to a new world for the good of mankind, a journey with implied risk that suggest they may never return.
The first phases are to involve rovers and science experiments, not men and women. The equipment would be built by SpaceX (and others) and shuttled to the planet in anticipation of the pioneers’ arrival in 2025. The early flights are a proving ground, a way to better understand interplanetary navigation and allow the company to safely land its craft on Mars, before shuttling humans.
Essentially what we’re saying is we’re establishing a cargo route to Mars. It’s a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It’s going happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station. And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it’s going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments.
In decades past, these missions would have fallen on NASA and congress, which makes it even more impressive that Musk and his privately-held company are leading the charge.The move is an audacious one by a company that lacks the resources of a government agency and is receiving only minimal support. NASA, for its part, has previously said it would provide technical — but not financial — support for Musk’s 2018 mission.
Whether it is an obsession or sheer inspiration Musk seems bent on proving himself. If things go according to plan, we should be able to — we should be able to — launch people in 2024, with the arrival in 2025,” Musk is believed to have said. This is indeed a grand plan for up to now we have just seen life in Mars in movies. If musk can pull it off and Mars can be really colonized in 30 to 40 years time his company will have done a great service to humanity as the Earth’s resources are drying up especially water and with burgeoning population in billions many will aspire to become Martians.
Musk has missed some self-imposed deadlines before. But he said that he intends to send SpaceX’s Dragon Version 2 spacecraft to Mars in 2018. SpaceX has entered into an agreement with NASA for a Dragon mission to Mars, set to take place as early as 2018. Known as “Red Dragon”, the variant of the Dragon 2 spacecraft will be launched by the Falcon Heavy rocket, ahead of a soft landing on the surface of Mars. The mission is also part of an agreement with NASA to gain further data on Mars landings.
Red Dragon was always seen as the first step towards that eventual goal. SpaceX’s announcement pointed to the completion of the main phase of an agreement with NASA, likely via a Space Act Agreement (SAA), to work together on a mission to Mars.
Elon Musk, has great plans for posterity and can rightly be called a great visionary and had visionaries and academics like Gene Rodenberry, Jules Verne, Einstein, Newton and many others been alive today they would have lauded Musk for his intrepid and entrepreneurial skills.
Elon Musk has the funds, the resources, and the manpower to realize his dreams and with the support of the US government, he has everything at his disposal to invade Mars and set up colonies of earthlings.
Musk has many more years to go and with his visionary thinking and foresight and with time who knows what greater achievements he will make. Godspeed to him.