The Mars Race

This is hilarious. Muilenburg thinks (or at least claims to think) that Boeing is going to beat SpaceX to Mars. With SLS.

Do it

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 7, 2017

[Update a while later]

Eric Berger’s take:

Boeing also isn’t going to land a rocket on Mars without near total funding from NASA, which has already paid more than $10 billion for development of the SLS and has no actual funding to implement a humans-to-Mars exploration plan. SpaceX will also need some government funding if it is to develop its “Big Falcon Rocket” to reach Mars, but Musk has laid out plans for commercial applications of his launch system that could offset some of its cost. (The SLS rocket has no known customers aside from NASA).

What is particularly puzzling to us is why Boeing and SpaceX are arguing about Mars. These two companies, who compete directly for NASA and other government contracts, are in a far more immediate and real race to reach the launch pad in the commercial crew competition. NASA has had to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to the International Space Station since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. Both Boeing and SpaceX are building capsules that will launch crews from Florida.

The companies have both seen slips in their schedules for the first crewed flights. They have launch dates now set for 2018, but there is a general expectation that further delays are likely—both due to development problems and changing requirements from NASA. Regardless, the company that eventually breaks NASA’s Russian dependence will win a public relations boon beyond compare for an aerospace company.

“Do it,” we say to Dennis and Elon.


16 comments on this post.
  1. Vladislaw:

    Wow was that for real? SLS is not going to mars though .. only to suborbit?

  2. ken anthony:

    It’s guaranteed they’ll all do it wrong because it’s not about the technology. But, yeah, the idea that SLS will be used is a hoot!

  3. M Puckett:

    Either way, Elon wins.

  4. Leland:

    Have an open market, build competition, we all win!

  5. wodun:

    Sadly, I think the Boeing dude’s expectation is based on a lack of competition.

  6. Leland:

    I’m sure you are right, but if really thinks NASA is going to get him there faster; he ought to consider the track record. On the other hand, if Boeing tried to get there because that’s where people want to go; I think they would find more interest to help get there.

  7. David Spain:

    Usually a race involves runners running in the same direction, heading for the same finish line. But I’m kinda old fashioned in that sense.

  8. ken anthony:

    While all will need development funding, SpaceX plans on very traditional ticket funds to bring it to final reality. But that’s not going to get it done (just do the math.)

    My plan does not require any govt. It just requires lawyers with balls. Or lawyers without balls if someone can pay them.

    The money already exists.

    Any lawyer wishing to become the richest guy on two planets just give me a call. You’ll get all the credit, fame and money… and a nice president’s job at a bank. That’s a hint about the kind of law you need to practice.

    Also, an understanding of the principles of the founding fathers would be helpful.

  9. wodun:

    SpaceX will also need some government funding if it is to develop its “Big Falcon Rocket” to reach Mars

    I am not sure if they need it but why turn away a paying customer? The key difference is how government money flows to these two companies.

    Regardless, the company that eventually breaks NASA’s Russian dependence will win a public relations boon beyond compare for an aerospace company.

    I used to think this but it is doubtful. Neither company’s reputation will change much. A crewed capsule isn’t much of a technological leap. The general public will just shrug.

    In recent years, Musk has generally been recognized as the face of mankind’s goal to colonize Mars due to his celebrity credibility status.


    Considering how deep Boeing is buried into the government and people generally have the mindset of everything in space being a NASA thing, it isn’t a crazy assumption that the first person on Mars would ride on a Boeing rocket. They would be a NASA astronaut right? A cynic would say that Boeing could get the government to throw up all kinds of roadblocks for SpaceX too.

    But Boeing has a single customer and in the long run, that isn’t going to cut it when competing with companies that are using profit to fund desires larger than government contracts. Boeing doesn’t even have its own spaceport.

    Who will find more customers other than NASA for their capsules?

  10. Pug Sanchez:

    He must just be trying to get Elon hot & bothered – he can’t be that delusional.

  11. George Turner:

    You have to use the right metrics, some of which say Boeing is way, way ahead of SpaceX.

    Number of passenger miles flown:
    Boeing: A gazillion.
    SpaceX: Zero.

    Number of in-flight meals served:
    Boeing: A gazillion.
    SpaceX: Zero.

    And on and on.

  12. Mike Daley:

    And 2001 showed a PanAm shuttle serving a “real” space station. As is oft quoted, “past isn’t a predictor of future”. That said, as an O’Neil acolyte going to Mars is a worthless exercise.

  13. ken anthony:

    O’Neils vision is fine. It’s the acolytes that are messed up.

    You don’t get to any colonies in one step. Not on mars nor in space.

    The difference is what social structure leads to faster growth? The problem with space colonies is the same as a communist 5 year plan. It looks good on paper.

    Real growth happens with distributed independent competition. A planet gives you that freedom where a ship in space does not. Even many ships by many organizations does not relative to free people on a planet.

    Some think low import cost is the answer. It’s not. We ship things all over the world at a cost that space transportation can’t currently come anywhere close to and not foreseeably in the future (Perhaps with a reactionless drive?)

  14. Michael:

    ” Boeing and SpaceX are building capsules that will launch crews from Florida.”
    Capsules, bah! If SpaceX can get the BFR flying, we will have real spaceships again. Capsules are a definite step backward.

  15. M Puckett:

    Capsules are a tool in the tool box. There is room for may types of spaceships.

  16. Ken Lunderman:

    Boeing’s statement reminds me ever so much of ULA’s attempts a few years ago under Michael Gass (Tory Bruno’s predecessor) to diss SpaceX. If anything, this is a bullish signal for SpaceX.