SpaceX’s Rocket Recoveries are Game-changing for Potential Mars Exploration: Here’s Why

News of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets’ feats have left us in awe in recent times, and excited for the future of the fledgling technology involved with reusable rockets. To date, SpaceX has successfully landed 6 Falcon 9 rocket first stages out of the 11 attempted so far after their launch and subsequent re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

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Of Course I Still Love You Autonomous Drone Ship | Flickr

Ok, so they are landing rockets but what does this mean and how is this useful? Also, what the heck is a Falcon 9?

Falcon 9

The Falcon 9 is a launch vehicle built and designed by SpaceX, a company which both builds and launches rockets for various purposes. Falcon 9 is capable of transporting both cargo as well as human passengers.

The Falcon 9 is a launch vehicle built and designed by SpaceX, a company which both builds and launches rockets for various purposes.

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Falcon 9 Overview | Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle Payload User’s Guide

The latest iteration of the Falcon 9 rocket allows for the first stage to be recovered after launch. To date recovery landings have been done both on land and on autonomous drone ships in water.

Travelling to Mars

Travelling to Mars has long been an enticing dream for the human race but one that has yet to be realized. Not only is it appealing simply because of the cool factor but travelling to and colonizing Mars is a viable method for mitigating against an extinction scale event on planet Earth and ensuring the survival of our species.

Travelling to and colonizing Mars is a viable method for mitigating against an extinction scale event on planet Earth and ensuring the survival of our species.

To get to Mars, however, we need a reliable method of getting there and it would also help quite a bit if this method was cost effective. Well, this is where SpaceX and their Falcon 9 comes into play.

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Mars… The Red Planet
Note: There are other factors that need to be considered if humans were to travel to an colonize mars such as figuring out how to live there since we can’t breathe the atmosphere there or grow food there without suitable technologies.

Landing and Eventually Reusing Falcon 9 Rockets

By landing the first stage of their Falcon 9 rockets, SpaceX is opening up the possibility of significantly reducing the costs of space transportation. The current convention is to allow first stages to burn up upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. This is striking considering that a commercial airliner costs about the same as a Falcon 9 rocket.

The current convention is to allow first stages to burn up upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

A commercial airliner is in usually in service for several years however. Up until rockets such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Blue Origin’s New Shepard however, this was never attempted before.

This means that each rocket launch that has occurred in the past was subject to a price tag potentially more exorbitant than it needs to be.

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SpaceX’s successful landing of the first stage from their JCSat-16 Mission on August 14th, 2016 | SpaceX Flickr

Although SpaceX is yet to reuse one of their rockets, they are planning to do this soon as indicated by their CEO Elon Musk, opening the floodgates to a more cost effective rocket launch process.

Note: Each attempted landing whether successful or not gives valuable data on how to improve the process of landing and reusing rockets.

Final Thoughts

By attempting these landings SpaceX is not only paving the way for revolutionizing access to space by taking steps to make it significantly cheaper but are also paving the way for the enabling of a Mars mission.

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They are doing this by working the kinks out of one of the most important factors involved in making this possible which is transportation. Yes there are many other pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together but this is an important initial step.

That’s enough thinking for now though. Take a look at SpaceX’s first successful landing of their rocket’s first stage on an autonomous drone ship.

ALSO READ: GT Explains: The Different Levels of Autonomous Vehicle

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William Elcock

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