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!
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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.