Justin Lee Brea Olinda 11th Grade
Standing nearly 230 ft tall with a mass of seven Boeing 747s, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy is truly a once-in-a-lifetime milestone. Elon Musk’s aerospace company has been gaining positive attention since its beginnings in 2002, and has confirmed the launch of the much anticipated rocket to be February 6, 2018.
These past months have been monumental for the SpaceX family. Falcon 9’s successful lift-off at Vandenberg Air Force Base back in December caught the attention of not only Southern California residents gazing at the UFO-like streak in the sky, but also space enthusiasts around the world. Now, just weeks after Falcon Heavy’s static fire test, we might be witnessing the next step to human space travel.
Musk has been stirring up the media about possible Mars colonization for a while now, and this launch may be the pivotal point in his plan. The timeline claims to send transport vehicles to Mars by 2022 and crewed ships two years after that, which means humans will be able to walk on the red planet in just 7 years. However, Musk himself reminded the public that “there’s a lot that could go wrong there,” since the rocket is in fact still in its initial stages. The practicality of this plan to go to Mars is for us to debate over, but it seems like these bold ideologies Musk tends to assert are what we need to advance our limits.
Nonetheless, February 6 will mark a tremendous feat for SpaceX, and they will be able to claim the title of the world’s most powerful operational rocket. The three-booster giant is not all that the company boasts; the cores generate 22,819 kN (more than 5,000,000 pounds) of thrust at liftoff, according to their website. In addition to its unprecedented power, this rocket also has another quirk of its own: most of the parts are reused and the outer cores have actually been flown in previous missions. SpaceX has already figured out how to land its first-stage boosters back on land, and plan to land the center-core on a drone ship in the ocean.
Budget is definitely a determining factor in large-scale projects like these, and rival-company NASA has been forced to turn to SpaceX due to the staggering price gap between their new Space Launch System (SLS) and Musk’s relatively inexpensive rockets. Regarding NASA’s recent focus on returning humans to the moon, “[they] have been trying this for over a decade. If you can get a heavy lift launch vehicle for under ＄100 million it changes everything,” says Charles Miller, president of space consulting firm NexGen Space LLC.
With the date finally set, Falcon Heavy’s launch will allow us to grow in technology, and endeavor to surpass expectations. Now it’s only a matter of time before our kids can see Martians.