NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, left, and SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk, view the Space X Dragon capsule that returned to Earth.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, left, and SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk, view the Space X Dragon capsule that returned to Earth. Photo: Bill Ingalls | NASA | FlickrCC.

Space X wants to send a mission to Mars by 2018. Slate has an excellent article about how that’s actually possible, but it doesn’t address the business side of things, just the technology side. That’s fair since countless technical questions must be asked about such a project. But there are business issues too, namely: why?

Space X, and its founder Elon Musk has made it apparent that not everything they do is about money. They’re obviously very invested in the science side of things, and frankly it’s companies like Space X that are making space exploration feasible of late, as governments, especially in the United States, don’t seem that interested anymore.

The thrill of exploration and the primacy of knowledge that such a space flight promises distract us from considering the problems it presents. How will Space X complete a mission to Mars? They will have to design a vehicle larger than anything we’ve yet sent to the Red Planet. This challenge opens the door to great innovation and mechanical failure and testing.

Musk is on record as saying that humans need to live on multiple planets, and to do that, we need to get to them first. Once there, we need to learn how to live and work on those planets and possible move materials between Earth and Mars.

All of these goals require vessels capable of space flight, which will require new technology, all of which Space X seems to be working on. The answer is pretty obvious then, as to why Space X would do this, especially if you’re familiar with the history of European exploration or colonization.

There is big money in helping people get to new places and survive there, on a scale which most modern companies couldn’t fathom. Do some reading about Spain, France, and England’s efforts to reach the Americas, and you’ll see what kind of incomprehensible wealth going to Mars could generate.

And Space X is poised to be the first company to get us there.

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