As SpaceX Heads to Mars with its Red Dragon Program, NASA Tags Along, A Win-Win for Both

NASA FISO Presentation: NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission

"Now available is the September 21, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers was Philip McAlister (NASA HQ) who discussed "NASA Collaboration with SpaceX's Red Dragon Mission".

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

NASA to have limited role in SpaceX's planned Mars campaign, Spaceflight Now

"Expertise, input and advice from seasoned NASA engineers will improve SpaceX's chances of nailing the first commercial landing on Mars as soon as late 2018, a senior space agency official said Wednesday, but Elon Musk's space transport company will likely seek more independence from U.S. government support on later expeditions to the red planet."

Programming note: SpaceRef will broadcast live Elon Musk's presentation, Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species, from the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara next week on Tuesday, September 27 at 2:30 pm ET.

Marc's note: We certainly live in a new age of exploration when a private space company is embarking on a mission that no government has yet to undertake.

That mission, to send an uncrewed technology demonstration human spacecraft mission to land on Mars has never been attempted. And make no mistake this is not the spacecraft that SpaceX would send to Mars with humans. It's a technology demonstration. The data collected by this mission will be invaluable to future manned missions to Mars and elsewhere.

No public company would do this mission either. The return on investment (ROI) in the short term just isn't there and they have public shareholders with a stock price and dividends to account for.

SpaceX though, is playing a long game. Sure they have their own pressures, including private shareholders. But they don't have a changing Congress that makes program changes partly based on what's best for their district. No, SpaceX can plan long term and execute its programs, which by necessity, have to be flexible to meet the challenges they face and will face.

This mission is a win-win for both the private sector and government. NASA will get invaluable data that will help them on their Journey to Mars, while SpaceX will get experience and technical data to mount a manned mission to another planet. They might also get an inside track on any future government missions to another Mars or elsewhere.

This SpaceX program is a risky and costly one though. While data collected on route to Mars will be useful, a successful landing will be how this program will be judged in the public, fairly or not.

One caveat, as we've seen, there's more than one private company to account for with the funds to innovate at their own pace, Blue Origin. Jeff Bezos recently unveiled plans for a new line of rockets. While Blue Origin is seemingly behind SpaceX, they too are playing a long game.

If you're in the space, these sure are exciting times.

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This page contains a single entry by Marc Boucher published on September 22, 2016 12:16 PM.

Will Congress Get the 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act and Other Bills Approved? was the previous entry in this blog.

NASA Launches iTech Innovation Program for the Journey to Mars and Beyond is the next entry in this blog.

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