When I hear the term outer space, I’m filled with both wonder and bewilderment. Trying to comprehend the magnitude of what lies beyond Planet Earth makes my brain hurt a little, but I am fascinated by it. And since the nighttime sky has been unusually clear with Mars shining so brightly this summer, SPACE has been in the forefront of my mind more than ever. Needless to say, I couldn’t be more thrilled to live on the Space Coast, host to some of the world’s leading aerospace companies who make it possible for me to watch launches on the beach a few blocks from my home. But despite my intrigue with space, I actually know very little about what these incredible companies do beyond “launching rockets.”
So when I learned September would be The Beachside Resident’s Military and Technology issue, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to learn more; surely a write-up on one of these spectacular companies or some of their glowing achievements would magically appear in our editor Sharon Lacy’s hands. But as the deadline drew near, a willing aerospace writer seemed nowhere to be found. And that, my friends, is how a space-noob like me ended up volunteering to write about SpaceX, the ambitious aerospace enterprise lighting up Brevard’s skies with its fantastical launches year after year. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk. They design and manufacture cutting-edge rockets and perform several launches each year for clients such as NASA, the US government, and various satellite communication companies. Since the onset, their goal has been to revolutionize space technology and reduce the costs of space travel to eventually enable humans to live on other planets.
That’s right. I said OTHER PLANETS.
Can you imagine human civilizations existing on entirely different worlds?! The technology and ingenuity involved with making life possible in completely alien environments? This is stuff out of a Sci-Fi movie. This is the future, folks, and it is happening in our backyard as we speak.
Though interplanetary travel is the ultimate goal, the road to making it a reality is long and arduous. In the meantime, SpaceX has been accumulating groundbreaking accomplishments in Cape Canaveral that are certainly steps in the right direction. For instance, in 2010, SpaceX proved it could return a spacecraft from low Earth orbit, and in 2012, its Dragon spacecraft successfully delivered cargo to and from the International Space Station.
Last year, SpaceX made history again with the reflight of an orbital class rocket that had previously been launched and landed; now, flight-proven rockets are regularly launched and landed in spectacular fashion as can be witnessed from Brevard county beaches (if you’ve never witnessed a rocket coming back for a landing, definitely put it on your Bucket List).
This year, SpaceX started launching its Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful operational rocket capable of supporting missions to the Moon or Mars. In store for 2019, SpaceX plans to restore manned space flight to the United States for the first time since 2011 by sending astronauts to the International Space Station.
With these advances, SpaceX believes they’re on track to start missions to Mars in 2022. The first will be a cargo mission to establish the basic infrastructure to support human life. Manned missions to Mars could begin as early as 2024, at which point the first Mars base could be established. According to SpaceX’s website, after the base is complete, “we can build a thriving city and eventually a self-sustaining civilization on Mars.”
Reading about SpaceX’s plans for Mars puts me into intense daydreams about what it would be like to live on the Red Planet. Though it seems like it would be dusty, dry, and desolate, it is fascinating to imagine what a colony on Mars could mean for mankind’s future. And to think our very own Cape Canaveral is the backdrop for one of the most significant advancements our species might ever experience! We are truly lucky to call the Space Coast our home.