The modern day space race

Several space agencies worldwide are vying to take the lead in otherworldly exploration. They have big plans for the coming decades and if they’re successful, it will mean several remarkable new leaps for humankind. 

NASA is the leader of the leaders when it comes to space travel. This United States government agency is responsible for sending hundreds of space probes to moons, planets, asteroids, and deep space to learn more about the universe.  

SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is a private space company with the audacious mission to ultimately land a man on the Moon and Mars. One of SpaceX’s main objectives is to make space travel affordable and one day help colonize Mars. Musk took the age-old adage “shoot for the stars” quite literally, and we may one day be able to get there, promoting the novel concept of space tourism.  

NASA’s Artemis program is their biggest upcoming mission, working to establish a permanent Moon base to aid in exploring further planetary bodies. This mission began in 2017, and is projected to continue into 2026.  

The massive SLS Artemis 1 was successfully launched without a crew on Wednesday November 16, 2022. This was the first launch of a three-part series that plans to carry astronauts during the eventual launch of Artemis 3. 

The massive Space Launch System (SLS) will one day launch the Orion spacecraft fully crewed. The SLS has been under development and construction for almost a decade and is projected to be complete in time for the next launch of Artemis 2 no earlier than 2024 

The Lunar Gateway is another key piece to this mission. This small space station will be built and orbit around the Moon. It’s designed as a platform to assist missions into deeper space. The Orion module will dock with Lunar Gateway, and astronauts will transfer to the Moon landing module to reach the Moon’s surface. 

Artemis 2 will carry astronauts further than they have ever been in space, completing a flyby to the dark side of the Moon before returning to Earth. It will be collecting invaluable flight test data. 

Finally, in 2025 (or later), Artemis 3 – using SpaceX’s reusable and cost-effective Starship – will set off to be the first Moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. The Orion module will carry four astronauts to the Lunar Gateway; the Moon landing modules will then take two passengers onto the Moon’s surface; once that happens, history will be made. 

Starship aims to reach orbit around Earth within this year. The mission of Starship is first to carry astronauts and cargo to the Moon (a three-day trip), then to reach Mars after a nine-month trip. Afterward, they will begin colonizing the planet, with the ultimate goal of making space travel and space tourism an affordable and actualized industry. 

If Musk successfully carries out his plans, other Starship models will launch daily missions moving up to 150 tons of payload into orbit. These high flight rates would substantially drop the cost of travel. The implications of this cost-effective space travel makes Mars colonization a real possibility once issues of health, supplies, radiation, water, living environment and oxygen are resolved. 

Starship test launches have experienced some crashes, although this is an expected and regular occurrence in the earlier days of spacecraft testing. Musk has maintained his morale for this mission, with high hopes of reaching the Moon and Mars within the decade, stating, “I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”

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