Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg told an audience at an innovation conference in Chicago that the company plans to be the first to Mars. “I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Muilenburg said. The news comes after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had presented his plans on how to make human beings a multi-planetary species, in specific accomplishing this by sending humans to the Red Planet.
SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin are locked in a furious competition to develop space vehicles capable of launching satellites, transporting astronauts to the International Space Station, and traveling far out into space. “The goal of SpaceX really is to build the transport system. It’s like building the Union Pacific railroad,” Musk said last week from the International Aeronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. His plans include a spaceship capable of hauling 100 space travelers to Mars in cruise ship like luxury.
Not wanting to be left behind in this 21st century “space race”, Boeing is working with NASA to develop a new heavy lift rocket called the Space Launch System, which is intended to be used for deep space exploration — such as journeys to Mars. It also envisions several ventures closer to the earth.
Muilenburg told the conference that his company imagines the space tourism industry “blossoming over the next couple of decades into a viable commercial market,” according to Bloomberg. The International Space Station could be joined in low earth orbit by dozens of hotels and companies pursuing micro-gravity manufacturing and research. “I think it’s a fascinating area for us,” he said.
Could such a concept be profitable? “That business model isn’t closed yet. At some point it will,” he said. “The future of innovation has to include not only the technology, but economic viability.”
Boeing is also working on new hypersonic aircraft designs. Travelling 3 times the speed of sound, they could fly passengers from New York to Los Angeles in under two hours. The Concorde offered similar service across the Atlantic a generation ago but was unprofitable despite the allure of high speed travel. The planes were eventually grounded not because of any technical issues but because the numbers just didn’t add up.
Leonardo DiCaprio may have already signed up for trip to Mars via SpaceX, but it may be a while yet before he gets his boarding pass.