SpaceX Takes Off

Olivia Berler, Staff Writer

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As a young child, many of us dreamt of going to space. Little did we know that the only people eligible to make such an incredible trek were professionally trained astronauts. However, this may not be the case for much longer.

SpaceX, a company that, since 2002, has been dedicated to the creation and launching of modern space vessels with the goal of humans eventually being able to dwell on other planets, is looking to revolutionize space travel through establishing passenger trips around the moon, and eventually to Mars as well. “Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration,” said an article from

Travelling to the moon versus to Mars is pretty much one extreme to the next. Therefore, there are some things that have to be done differently for a trip to Mars, one reason being that it takes months as opposed to days to get there. Andres Garcia, Barnstable alumna and senior propulsion engineer at SpaceX, explained, “you need enough space to keep people fed and hydrated for six months.” Due to this, the spaceship will need to be extremely large, so there is enough storage space. Also, there needs to be space on board for the mental health of the passengers because it is such a long, demanding journey to Mars. In preparation for this trip, SpaceX will also have to make sure the vessel has “protection from radiation and solar storms, which send electric particles our way,” Garcia explained. Mars does not have even partial protection from this like the moon does, so in case of any of these problems, there will be a solar storm shelter inside of the spaceship. Another challenge of travelling to Mars that Garcia mentioned was that there will need to be enough fuel produced in order for the spaceship to safely return to Earth. “On Mars, carrying the return trip fuel is very difficult as it’s so much fuel and so far away,” (unlike the moon, which is much closer to Earth) Garcia explained. Fuel can be made on Mars through utilizing something called the Sabatier Reaction, which will allow methane to be produced from the carbon dioxide and water that the ice contains on the red planet.

About a year ago this month, Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX revealed to the public that two people will be sent on a trip around the moon in 2018. “We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year,” explained an article from Until the passengers are deemed fit for space exploration, their identities will be kept anonymous.

Garcia explained that in order to be eligible to travel to Mars “you’ll have to be in good physical and mental shape. Being in a capsule or spaceship for a long time can be really hard on the mental or physical health of a person.” Astronaut training and the ability to “move and work in no-gravity and low-gravity environments” will also be necessary for these passengers. “A good idea would be to have some expertise in engineering or science at least for the first trips,” Garcia explained. This is because passengers will have to keep up with the maintenance of the spaceship during their trip. The passenger trips may even provide medical personnel in case anyone gets sick. “Training will be hard, but very worth it for the adventure,” Garcia concluded.

According to, “The private spaceflight company will use its Falcon Heavy rocket to send the two paying passengers into space aboard one of the company’s Dragon spacecraft.” Although the Dragon was originally created by SpaceX for the purpose of carrying humans, history was made in 2012 when it “became the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo to Earth.” Ever since, SpaceX has been working non-stop on the ultimate-goal for Dragon to transport passengers.

That being said, Caroline Marczely, a junior at Barnstable, said she wouldn’t be looking to travel to space any time soon.

“I don’t think I would because I heard it’s crazy expensive, and I feel that so many things could go wrong,” she explained.

Although Marczely isn’t wrong about the price aspect of this (SpaceX has not revealed the exact price of the passenger moon mission, but stated that the two people have paid a “significant deposit.”), the reason that this passenger vessel has taken so long to perfect is because SpaceX is trying to make it as dependable and safe as possible. With anything as extreme as this, there is, of course, always a big risk that comes along with it. No matter how intricate the Crew Dragon and Falcon Heavy are and no matter how much time is put into them, a lot of people may decline an opportunity to go to space because all they can think about are the possibilities of something going wrong.

Garcia explained that many things have to be done in order to make it safe for normal people to travel to space. “Space has many risks that we are starting to comprehend as a civilization,” Garcia said. He mentioned that the ships have to be “reliable and reusable,” which will essentially decrease the cost of the passenger trips as long as the travel is safe. Also, “understanding the health risks of long duration space flight” is extremely important. “Our bodies evolved to stay on Earth, so we are just starting to understand how long duration space flight affects us directly,” Garcia explained. At the International Space Station, This broad understanding is being thoroughly researched. Although there are surely more, these were the first risks that came to mind for Garcia. “Without reusability and reliability and health, it’ll be hard to make it such that non-astronaut trained humans go to space normally,” he said.

The Falcon Heavy rocket recently performed its first test-launch on February 6, 2018. About three million people viewed the SpaceX live video as the rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center. In an interview with CNN, Elon Musk stated, “People came from all around the world to see what will either be a great rocket launch or the best fireworks display they’ve ever seen.”

Falcon Heavy’s takeoff was performed without a hitch, and, even more astonishing, SpaceX successfully led two of Falcon Heavy’s first-stage rocket boosters to land upright at the same time back at Kennedy Space Center.

Except for a minor bump in the road, the test-run was extremely successful. “The third booster was supposed to land on a sea-faring platform called a droneship — but just as it was to land, the livestream cut out. Musk confirmed after the launch that the booster made a crash landing,” explained an article from CNN.

Aside from this very fixable issue, SpaceX’s success on February 6 is surely leading them in a positive direction. The whole world is following closely as SpaceX continues to make groundbreaking accomplishments that will revolutionize space exploration forever.

On another note, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was sent, without passengers, to the International Space Station during late 2017. However, the Dragon is scheduled to launch with a crew on board later this year. “SpaceX is currently contracted to perform an average of four Dragon 2 missions to the ISS per year, three carrying cargo and one carrying crew. By also flying privately crewed missions, which NASA has encouraged, long-term costs to the government decline and more flight reliability history is gained, benefiting both government and private missions,” explained a article.

As soon as these Crew Dragon missions are successful and proven safe, the private passenger moon mission will be set in motion. The mission will lift off from Pad 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center, which “is the same launch pad used by the Apollo program for its lunar missions,” according to, and will essentially allow humans to not only be launched into deep space “for the first time in 45 years,” but also to travel further into the depths of space than ever before.

Why has this incredible engineering feat taken so long? Astronomy teacher, Michael Gyra, explained, “There are many things that the engineers have to think out. You can’t push the science because people will be going on these vessels.”

Along the same lines, Garcia said that passenger space travel “is really hard, and it requires many scientific fields to advance in order for it to be achievable in a reliable and repeatable way, which are the main things necessary for normal people to go into space.” Funding for this extremity of a project has also been an obstacle that companies such as SpaceX have encountered. However, Garcia said that “this is quickly changing” because companies are beginning to receive the necessary funding to work specifically towards passenger trips to space. “Sometimes, you really need to think, ‘If I build it, they will come,’” he explained. This whole development process is incredibly expensive because SpaceX is trying to build a reliable spaceship for the passengers. Garcia said that “as a company, you need to make sure there is a market to use these systems. In our case, we are creating it!”

Gyra was confident in saying that Elon Musk is extremely intense and pushes the engineers at SpaceX very hard as it is an incredibly competitive company to be able to work for. He explained that with the ultimate goal of building a spacecraft fit for Mars, the engineers must build an engine turbine that can withstand the severe temperature changes that would occur on the journey. These engineers are essentially taking human lives into their own hands, so naturally, they should want to do everything in their ability to make sure they do their job correctly.

Until now, even just the concepts of passenger travel to space, let alone Mars, have seemed unimaginable to mankind. However, with the amazing minds and complex work of the people at SpaceX, the unimaginable may soon prove possible.