Inroads made in the last couple of years have fueled the space race for the modern era, not the least of which Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy liftoff and subsequent landing — not to mention a little side of showboating when he launched a Tesla Roadster in space, making it the world's highest-mileage car ever, and it's still going.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg wants to join the space race but isn't planning on launching a car into space anytime soon. However:
"[W]e might pick up the one out there and bring it back," he said at the Politico Space Forum, obviously in reference to the Tesla hovering in outer space right now.
Boeing vs SpaceX
The playful jab is disproportionate to the two companies; rivalry, which is anything but playful, as Bloomberg notes. SpaceX is redefining the rocket industry by undercutting long-standing rivals including United Launch Alliance, which is tied to Boeing-Lockheed Martin Corp. SpaceX was the first company to ever make rockets that can land back on Earth after launching, something that was once thought practically impossible.
Previously, rockets could only be used once. The aerospace industry has long strived to make it so that rockets were like airplanes — no need to throw them out just after one launch. SpaceX has basically made that a reality. On top of that, Musk has also outlined an ambitious agenda for getting to Mars and later colonizing it, which is spurring other space agencies to get there first before it, including NASA and Boeing.
The Space Race Is On
The journey to Mars is this era's ultimate space race, similar in frenzy and momentum to the journey toward the moon in the '60s. SpaceX is presently assembling an enormous rocket called the BFR, which will be used for future missions.
Boeing, meanwhile, is helping NASA with its Space Launch System, a new line of rockets for the space agency's forthcoming missions. Muilenburg thinks NASA should take the lead and leave industry to focus on commercializing space travel closer to Earth.
Muilenburg hopes that we'll be able to set foot on Mars within a decade. But unlike SpaceX, Boeing isn't willing to share its plans on how it'll get there. He also doesn't make clear if Boeing will go there with a Boeing aircraft, or via a project with NASA.
"I certainly anticipate that we're going to put the first person on Mars during my lifetime... And I'm convinced that the first person that gets to Mars is going to get there on a Boeing rocket."