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Elon Musk, a seemingly unescapable name these days, is a badass, plain and simple. If you ignore his lucrative business ventures and even his unwavering societal presence, you cannot ignore the fact that this man has the world at his fingertips.
About a week ago, SpaceX launched a commercial communications satellite, sending shockwaves through the space community. The rocket booster (aptly titled “Falcon 9” after the Millennium Falcon from the legendary Star Wars Saga) provides an unorthodox and potentially game changing breakthrough in terms of cost-efficient space travel. The Falcon 9 represents part of Musk’s visionary strategy to reduce extraterrestrial travel costs, a rather lofty mission. Such reductions would entail recycling old technology and using such technologies for current/future extraterrestrial ventures, as with the Falcon 9. Musk had previously suggested that reusable rockets represent the future of space travel such as during the 67th Annual International Astronautical Congress in 2016, while also discussing the possibility of colonizing Mars. Basically, he is taking two of the most revolutionary extraterrestrial concepts, mashing them together, and creating a lovechild that would put John Legend and Chrissy Teigen to shame.
Now, in order to understand Musk’s vision, you must first understand the current practices and costs surrounding space travel, general. After most space exploration missions, the rockets are simply allowed to crash back to earth, meeting their ultimate demise. Recently, SpaceX has been landing their rockets on various ships/launch sites, as with the Falcon project above. Reconstructing rockets is not only a time-consuming task, but requires a large amount of monetary investment as well. In fact, part of the reason Musk created SpaceX was to drive down the cost of space travel, as Musk has consistently critiqued the space community on its astronomically high production and maintenance prices. In order to achieve lofty goals, such as inhabiting Mars, Musk must be able to drive down such costs/expenditures.
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There is often a lack of transparency associated with government extraterrestrial travel costs. In order to attain a better of such costs, we can look at spending during 2010 by the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program (EELV). The EELV is comprised solely of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, with the intent of lowering extraterrestrial costs, rocket production costs, and create a more commercial production process. During 2010 alone, the EELV appropriated $1.14 billion for three rockets alone. Musk has continually stated that the Falcon 9 costs about $57 million to launch/re-land. This represents a monumental 6-fold price reduction compared to the average cost of an EELV launch (approx. a $350 million per EELV launch). By employing a rudimentary idea, such as reuse and recycle, Musk continues his revolutionary assault on the status quo.
With an agenda as expansive and explorative as Musk’s, it can be easy to dismiss such ventures as trivial and overly ambitious. At the end of the day, it is unlikely that Musk’s ventures impact our lives in the slightest. This creates an impetus for us to disengage and ignore even the slightest mention of Musk’s name, which again, is impossible due to his omnipotence these days. However, we have to strike back against these jaded feelings and understand Musk’s vision (and badassery) on a greater scale. This is a man who not only talks a big game, but backs it up with nonstop innovation. Musk is the sheer essence of innovation and even harnesses the ability to sway some of the most powerful politicians in our country. Musk is a revolutionary badass and the sky doesn’t even seem to be the limit (literally).
Whether we see Musk’s ideas brought to fruition during our lifetime or not, we must follow and support his endeavors because he is shaping the future of tomorrow without any indication of slowing down.