Boeing will beat competitors to Mars, declares CEO

Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing, says he believes the first person to walk on Mars would be sent on a Boeing spacecraft.

Muilenburg made the comment during an interview with The Street, in which he also discussed the potential impact on business of incoming steel, aluminium and other tariffs introduced by the Trump administration in the United States.

After being asked whether Boeing or SpaceX – the California-based spacecraft manufacturing and space services company – would be first to reach Mars, Muilenburg replied: “Boeing”.

“We are working jointly with Nasa [...] and building that first rocket space launch system,” he elaborated. “It’s about 38 storeys tall; the first storey is being built right now. It has 9.2 million pounds of thrust on that rocket [...] it’s the biggest rocket ever."

"We will begin test flights starting next year, we're going to go back to the Moon, the administration is really leaning forward on returning to the Moon, setting up a lunar station and then using that as a stepping stone to Mars."

Boeing is the primary contractor for the design, testing and manufacture of Nasa’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), which could eventually enable equipment and astronauts to travel beyond the Moon: to Mars and other objects of interest.

The SLS will replace Nasa’s retired Space Shuttle, and is a key part of Nasa’s long-term plans for a manned mission to Mars. The SLS is expected to be the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, and the project is estimated to cost up to $35bn (£26bn), leading some critics to argue that Nasa’s funding could be spent more effectively elsewhere.

“I firmly believe that the first person to step foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket,” Muilenburg added.

Meanwhile, SpaceX – a considerably younger company than Boeing, having been established in 2002 by billionaire industrialist Elon Musk – has been laying out ambitious plans to create the infrastructure necessary for the eventual human colonisation of Mars. The company has stated its intention of putting the first astronauts on Mars by 2024. Nasa, meanwhile, has said that it could be ready to carry out a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

These plans require reusable launch vehicles, habitable spacecraft and a super heavy-lift rocket, nicknamed the BFR (‘big f***ing rocket’), which has the capability for long-distance spaceflight as well as servicing Earth orbit requirements. The BFR is under construction and is expected to begin testing in 2019.

In response to Muilburg’s statement that he believes Boeing could beat SpaceX in the race to putting an astronaut on Mars, Musk simply tweeted: “Do it”.

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