January 15, 2018
Thomas Peter John Penney

SpaceX, one of billionaire entrepreneur and Silicon Valley sex party attendee Elon Musk’s many ventures, recently completed their second resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The craft, known as the Dragon capsule landed in the ocean on January 13, having completed its journey. The craft was launched on December 15, carrying 4800 pounds of supplies to the ISS. This mission’s significance is in the now demonstrable reusability of the Dragon capsule. 

The capsule was previously used to resupply the ISS, as well as having been launched on another reusable SpaceX product, the Falcon 9. That Musk’s toys are proving to be multiuse and reliable are indicative of a program that is moving in the right direction. However, colonizing Mars and sending a capsule to the ISS are two vastly different things.

The results have been promising thus far, yes. SpaceX has shown an aptitude for space flight that has surprised many in the industry – the goal of making it affordable means of travel surprises many more. There is likely a generation or two between today and the potential colonization of Mars because as some people have pointed out, space is an insane deathtrap wherein only the most highly trained and physically fit people can survive.

Not only that, but there are political, economic, and social implications to the mission. Who gets to go to Mars? Who gets stuck on Earth eating blight-ridden corn, waiting for Matthew McConaughey to return with good news? These questions are going to need answers before anyone gets to do some Dr. Manhattan style brooding on the red planet.

Still, this is encouraging. On a fundamental level, making space travel even vaguely accessible to the masses is a good thing to strive toward. SpaceX is a company doing very cool things that we once thought could only be achieved by nearly bankrupting countries, and building dodgy rockets that frequently had problems.

The next stage for SpaceX is to start going beyond the ISS and flying full return missions that involve people. If it can be demonstrated that regular, every day people can survive the rigors of space then the program will really begin taking off. If not, then the timeframe for Mars colonies moves up even further.