Another SpaceX Landing
Earlier this week, SpaceX successfully launched and landed its “Falcon 9” rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the second time SpaceX pulled off the ocean landing and this one was even more impressive than the last.
The rocket was traveling much faster and was delivering a much heavier payload, yet it landed squarely in the middle of the platform. It was a really big deal for SpaceX. It means the company can carry out more complex missions in the future.
But even Elon Musk wasn’t sure SpaceX could manage a landing at this speed. He tweeted out this message before the launch:
Rocket reentry is a lot faster and hotter than last time, so odds of making it are maybe even, but we should learn a lot either way
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 6, 2016
As it turns out, he needn’t have worried. The Japanese telecommunications satellite was delivered safely into orbit and the rocket booster was brought safely back to Earth. (Source: “Inspect SpaceX’s Fastest Barge Landing in Detail,” Gizmodo, May 10, 2016.) For most people, this would be have been a moment to reflect on the company’s incredible progress. After all, it was less than a decade ago that SpaceX was hanging on the edge of oblivion. Now, the company has $5.0 billion worth of flights booked on its manifests. It is even supposed to ferry astronauts up to the International Space Station (ISS). Those missions, due to begin in 2017, will provide a final test for SpaceX. No private launch company has ever flown a manned mission. It’s a lot to be going on with. And on top of all this, Elon Musk is also running his electric car company, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA). This guy is a glutton for work. But even all these developments weren’t enough to satisfy Elon Musk. Here are three more side projects he’s taken on that blur reality and science fiction:
1. Going to Mars
Out of nowhere, SpaceX tweeted out that the company is planning an unmanned mission to Mars. For when, you ask? The reasonable estimate would probably fall in the ballpark of 2020, just considering how much the company already has going on. But that estimate would fall short of Elon Musk’s ambitions. He wants to have his “Dragon” capsule to Mars by 2018.
2. Iron Man Spacesuits
Musk also hired a costume expert to help design SpaceX’s spacesuits. He wants them to “both look like a 21st century spacesuit and work well.” The designer, Jose Fernandez, is one of the hottest designers in Hollywood. He worked on suits for Iron Man, Batman vs. Superman, Avenger, and Tron.
“The look they are going to unveil in the next few months is something we created here in the studio,” said Fernandez. “[Musk] wanted it to look stylish. It had to be practical but also needed to look great.”
By creating a cool aesthetic, the SpaceX CEO is trying to invigorate enthusiasm for space travel. He probably also wants to have a say in the design because he’ll probably have to wear one at some point. Musk often says he wants to train for one of the first manned missions to Mars. (Source: “SpaceX Hires ‘Iron Man’ Costume Designer for its Spacesuits,” Newsweek, May 9, 2016.)
This one is only tangentially related to SpaceX, but it is certainly a Musk-original.
Several years ago he made a public announcement about a new type of transportation called “the Hyperloop.” The details were sketchy at first, but over time, Musk filled in the blanks. Imagine a rail system that was really a pressurized tube. Using advanced pneumatics, the Hyperloop could travel much faster than any existing rail system. It would shorten five-hour trips to thirty minutes.
Musk open-sourced the idea and started hosting competitions near the SpaceX headquarters. A test track was built and teams from around the world have come to show off their designs. (Source: “Elon Musk’s wild Hyperloop is slowly becoming a reality,” BGR, May 9, 2016.)