NASA / UnSplash
Space exploration in 2021 has been extremely successful regardless of the heavy toll that COVID-19 has placed on all industries. Many space agencies, including NASA, CNSA, and ESA, have planned and conducted successful missions, whether it was through sending out a new satellite or landing a rover on Mars, as the CNSA’s Tianwen-1 accomplished on May 14th, 2021.
However, as these missions continue, one name is becoming more and more synonymous with space exploration: SpaceX. SpaceX is a private corporation founded by Elon Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla, and it is taking the lead in the future of space exploration and innovation. The corporation has paired up with NASA on numerous occasions, including the recent mission to get the SpaceX Crew-2 docked and onboard the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Crew-2 consists of two American astronauts from NASA, one French astronaut from ESA, and one Japanese astronaut from JAXA. Their mission is planned to last six months, with their landing date set to be October 31st, 2021. This is not the only mission SpaceX has planned where people are sent to space, as an all-civilian crew is planned to be sent into orbit using a SpaceX spacecraft on September 15th, 2021.
Another extremely important event for SpaceX will undoubtedly be their 2.9 billion dollar contract with NASA to build a moon base dubbed “MoonBase Alpha.” The organizations’ ultimate goal is to get NASA astronauts on the Moon along with other goods and cargo.
The mission was originally planned for 2024, but it will most likely have to be delayed as Congress did not provide sufficient funding for the building of the base. Regardless, this was an enormous win for SpaceX since they won out against Jeff Bezos’s rival Blue Origin proposal for NASA; Elon Musk has also said that he is still optimistic about the mission’s spacecraft, Starship, being ready by 2023.
The Starship attempts to make docking less complicated by essentially “belly-flopping” to slow its fall, though the technology still has to be improved as all of the tests so far have resulted in the spacecraft exploding. However, even with all of these challenges, the base will be an important victory for space exploration when the technology is perfected and the funding secured.
“I believe that [SpaceX’s] collaboration with NASA will make both SpaceX and NASA the face of space exploration and innovation from now on,” said Lazlo Stein ’23. Edward Caldwell ’23 agreed, saying, “I think [SpaceX] is pretty revolutionary; they are doing things that have never been done before. However it’s not like they are doing this all on their own, as NASA helps out quite a lot. I think NASA and other government-run space agencies will always be at the forefront of space exploration.”
This is a valid point, as government-run space agencies will always have more consistent funding and technology, but private companies will definitely gain traction in providing and aiding in the creation of new innovations. SpaceX and other private corporations will definitely be worth keeping an eye on as space exploration advances.
“I think [SpaceX] is pretty revolutionary; they are doing things that have never been done before. However it’s not like they are doing this all on their own, as NASA helps out quite a lot. I think NASA and other government-run space agencies will always be at the forefront of space exploration,” said Edward Caldwell ’23.