On Thursday, September 1, Billionaire Elon Musk’s ambitious Space Exploration Technologies Corporation — better known as SpaceX — faced a setback in their exploration into space. The rocket exploded while being fueled at Cape Canaveral, destroying the satellite that was to be used by Facebook to provide Internet access to parts of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Luckily, however, no one was injured. Besides this rocket, SpaceX has launched 25 from this site. The others have carried supplies to satellites and the International Space Station.
Although SpaceX’s contract with NASA had them switch recently to The Complex 39A launch pad, other rockets have successfully launched. It left company officials wondering what was the cause for the explosion. Although the explosion rendered the two hundred million dollar Israeli AMOS-6 Satellite useless, SpaceX vows to find the reason for the blast. Data indicates that the explosion originated around the upper-stage LOX tank. Leroy Chiao, a SpaceX astronaut, acknowledges the setback but says that they “Will pick up the pieces and move forward,” arguing that they “are not quitters.”
The venture also had a lease agreement with fellow technology company Facebook. After the explosion, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented during his trip to Africa that he is “deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite,” and that it, “would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.”
Although this might seem unbelievable, Musk affirms his stance on this ambitious venture. Others seem to have faith in Musk’s dreams too; Fidelity and Google invested one billion dollars, giving them ownership of almost ten percent of the company. Musk plans to send NASA astronauts using the Falcon 9 rocket by next year and send humans to Mars in 2025. According to CNN, he also plans to present his architectural plan for the colonization of Mars later this September. He also has an idea to make the rockets reusable and land upright. After 3 failed missions in 2015 including the Falcon 9 rocket January crash, the engine malfunction in April, and the explosion in June, Musk’s company finally landed a rocket on December 22, 2015. This makes his ship the first to fly into space and complete a mission prior to reentry as the rocket delivered 11 satellites into Earth’s orbit.
In addition to Musk’s many other proposals, he has said that he will send SpaceX’s Dragon Version 2 to Mars in an unmanned mission by 2018; a mission using the spacecraft that will eventually carry people to Mars. If all goes to plan, the pod will attach to the Falcon 9 and take off from Earth in early 2025. The Falcon 9 rocket will land upright six months later on the surface of Mars, and the seven-person crew and seven-ton Dragon 2 pod will make a terrestrial soft landing using the eight SuperDraco engines on Mars.
While the explosions seemed to have plagued Musk’s company and its operational plausibility, SpaceX states that their priorities are to ensure the safety for future customers and the absolute safety for future crewed missions. Their recent victories, however, have planted a seed of hope into non-believers. In the meantime, the world watches, waiting for Musk’s dreams to truly take flight.