Partner Series

The race to Mars is on, it seems, and Boeing's CEO believes the megarocket his company his helping to build for NASA will deliver astronauts to the Red Planet before billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX.

According to Fortune, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was speaking on CNBC today when host Jim Cramer asked whether Boeing or SpaceX would "get a man on Mars first."

"Eventually we're going to go to Mars, and I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said, according to Fortune.

Boeing is the main contractor for the first stage of NASA's giant Space Launch System , which is designed to launch astronauts on deep-space missions using the space agency's new Orion spacecraft. (United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne are also SLS contractors.) NASA hopes to build a "Deep Space Gateway" near the moon before using SLS and Orion vehicles to send explorers to Mars. The first test launch is scheduled for 2019.  

Elon Musk, meanwhile, has long aimed to build a colony on Mars using SpaceX rockets. The company is developing a reusable megarocket— called the Big Falcon Rocket, or BFR — that would fly astronauts to Mars, the moon and other deep-space destinations. SpaceX also aims to launch a new heavy-lift rocket, the Falcon Heavy, in January. Last week, Musk announced on Twitter that the Falcon Heavy's first test flight will launch his own Tesla Roadster into space. Its destination? Mars orbit.

So the Mars gauntlet appears to be thrown.

In reponse to a Fortune Twitter post citing Muilenburg's Mars claim, Musk replied simply: "Do it."

The folks at Boeing then rose to that challenge: "Game on!" they answered back.

So what do you think? Will Team Boeing help send astronauts to Mars before SpaceX? Or will Elon Musk's Team SpaceX be first to walk on Mars?

We can't wait to find out!

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.