NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is an advanced launch vehicle that is set to launch its Orion Crew and Service Module on missions to an asteroid and then eventually launching to Mars. The launch system is involved with NASA’s space exploration program. It costs over $2 billion annually and will not be able to launch until 2019. Initially, it is only capable of launching 70 tons. If further development transpire, SLS will finally be able to launch 130 tons by 2029. However, as the weight capacity increases, the costs also rocket to $4 billion per year. Several private space advocacy groups like Space Frontier Foundation and Space Access Society have requested and suggested the cancellation of the SLS. Their argument states that SLS is unnecessarily cost-intensive and that the funds could be allotted to other NASA projects. Its cancellation could cause savings up to $30 billion. Furthermore, other spaceflight companies can get the job done at a faster pace and cheaper cost.
The space race is ongoing as private spaceflight companies attempt to beat government space organizations. According to SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk, the company is currently in the process of developing a fully reusable rocket that is set to be on a space mission to Mars.
At the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia, Elon Musk revealed that SpaceX will launch a reusable rocket by 2020. Its mission to Mars is estimated to launch in 2022. According to Musk, the “legendary” rocket is called Big F**king Rocket (BFR). The massive launch vehicle is 30-feet wide and carries 150 metric tons into low Earth orbit. In contrast with NASA’s SLS, SpaceX’s BFR is definitely running first place in the race with regard to capacity and cost efficiency.
BFR is not only tailor-made for travels in space, it is also designed to fly around across the Earth. On Instagram, Musk posted that BFR can “fly to most places on Earth in under 30 minutes and anywhere in under 60 minutes.” The rocket could fly through the edges of space at the speed of 18,000 mph to complete any global trip in under an hour. The SpaceX CEO also mentioned that the cost per seat in BFR should be about the same as that of a full-fare economy seat in an aircraft.
Despite the disclosure of bold and seemingly far-fetched stats, Musk is yet to execute and make the claimed specifications of BFR work. In line with this, calculations from experts are trying to debunk the billionaire’s bold claims. The University of Michigan’s Department of Aerospace Engineering professor, Ella Atkins, said, “I think that’s pretty much wishful thinking without backing it up with solid data. What’s being ignored in addition to fuel — not just the processing and loading — is who’s going to build the launchpads? What will the infrastructure look like for building, maintaining, and dealing with [these launchpads] in bad weather look like?”
Landing on Mars and successfully establishing a human settlement on the red planet is a milestone in the goal of setting up a new habitat and opening up connections in the solar system. Humankind is in search of another habitat as the Earth is reported to eventually become uninhabitable at some point, according to experts like the esteemed cosmotologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who believes that humanity only has 100 years before doomsday arrives. In other words, becoming interplanetary species by then is our only way of survival.
Reference: Next Big Future
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