SpaceX just got out of a Mars conference no one is supposed to know anything about, except the internet does. Elon Musk is obsessed with flying Earthlings to the Red Planet. The one thing the visionary SpaceX and Tesla mogul has come under scrutiny for is not extending his vision of getting to Mars with an idea of what humans are actually going to do there.
This is probably why Musk sent out private invitations to about 60 prominent scientists and engineers, including leaders from NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, to a meeting at UC Boulder intended for "active discussions regarding what will be needed to make these missions happen." At least that’s what Ars Technica claims to have seen on the invite.
The conference, which let out yesterday, was hosted by principal SpaceX Mars development engineer Paul Wooster, senior Mars development engineer Margarita Marinova, and former NASA technologist Bobby Braunt, who has been involved in past SpaceX projects and is now dean of the CU Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science.
"From flying payloads to the International Space Station with NASA to partnering with Colorado aerospace giants like Ball Aerospace, United Launch Alliance, Sierra Nevada, DigitalGlobe, and Lockheed Martin in research and workforce development, to developing and operating next-generation space science payloads and missions across the Solar System — CU Boulder is advancing innovation across the aerospace sector," said Braun.
There is definitely a reason NASA was expected to show up to the party. Questions of how we will ever support colonies on Mars and use its natural resources to sustain them were on the agenda, and SpaceX wanted to explore them with the space agency and scientists who have been seeking the answers. NASA’s extremely slow progress towards Mars has frustrated the scientific community, but collaborating with SpaceX and other commercial entities could be what it needs to finally take off.
NASA and SpaceX already collaborate on the commercial crew and cargo program that fly supplies and astronauts to the ISS, but there is some overlap when it comes to preparing for a deep space venture. Both obviously want to leave boot prints on Mars and are developing monster rockets to make it happen. Conferences like this could bring about collaboration rather than competition on surfacing technologies like reusable launch vehicles that could also land us on the moon.
Musk’s BFR (technically Big Falcon Rocket, but otherwise known as Big…Freakin’ Rocket) is a rocket-spaceship hybrid that is supposed to blast us through the dark expanse and withstand the 34-million-mile journey to Mars. Reduced costs also mean that Mars and deep space will not only be accessible to Musk-level billionaires, but at least some of the rest of us. This explains the heavy speculation that the BFR and other spaceflight options and capabilities had to have been discussed for future Mars missions.
Even if we aren’t sure exactly how we will get to Mars and what we will do there, if Elon Musk is positive about one thing, we are definitely going.
(via Ars Technica)