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This year marked the successful launch of NASA astronauts into space straight from US soil thanks to the collaboration between the agency as well as the private space agency SpaceX. The collaboration appears to continue between the two agencies as SpaceX may also be involved in the upcoming mission to Mars which is set to happen by the year 2030.
In a Reddit ask me anything, Dr. Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society who is also SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s mentor, revealed that the partnership between the two agencies will extend up to the Mars mission. When a Reddit user asked Dr. Zubrin when he thinks the first humans will land on Mars, Dr. Zubrin responded, “Before 2030. SpaceX will do it, with NASA collaborating. If Starship is flying regularly to LEO (Low Earth Orbit) by 2024, the next president will ask his or her advisors, ‘Can we get to Mars before the end of my second term?’ The answer will be ‘yes’ so then it will happen. By making the mission practical, SpaceX will make it sellable.”
Dr. Zubrin also revealed that he wants to inspire others to support the vision of colonizing Mars. When the goal of colonizing Mars is accomplished, Dr. Zubrin explained that the next step that will be taken is by “developing” the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. To achieve the goals regarding Mars, it might make use of SpaceX’s Starship, which may be a fully reusable spacecraft by that time.
Previously, NASA also made some amendments to its contract of partnership with SpaceX. NASA announced that SpaceX is now allowed to transport its astronauts through reused spaceships, which was something that the agency was previously against.
The amendments made to the contract also mean an extension of the Demo-2 test flight, which was only supposed to last two weeks. As of now, the changes may mean astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who were successfully transported to the International Space Station back in May, may stay longer, perhaps until August. However, it is still possible their stay in the ISS may end sooner.
Once Behnken and Hurley return to Earth, NASA will be reviewing their mission before formally announcing its approval of the Crew Dragon capsule.