This year’s TIME “Person of the Year” title goes to the man who led the space industry to a new era of affordability and reusability, built an electric vehicle empire, and tweets about pooping in his spare time. Of course, we are talking about Elon Musk.
The selection of Elon Musk as Person of the Year shows the growth the space industry has made in becoming mainstream. Of course, Musk’s venture with Tesla has made him the wealthiest person in history. However, he has become known for much more than just his wealth, like tweeting insults towards world leaders, defying government regulations, and who can forget his love for Dogecoin.
SpaceX’s continued innovation of the space launch industry
While you can’t disagree with Tesla’s importance to Musk’s wealth, SpaceX’s Starship and Inspiration4 launches dominated the news cycles in 2021. SpaceX’s innovation has turned the space launch industry on its head. Once laughed at for just the idea of reusing its first stage Falcon 9 booster, now reusability looks to be a must for survival.
I think anybody who’s not developing a reusable launch vehicle at this point in time is developing a dead-end product because it’s just so obvious that this is a fundamental approach that has to be baked in from day one.Peter Beck, CEO Rocket Lab
Starship: Reusability to the max
SpaceX is taking reusability to its highest level with Starship, a fully reusable two-stage rocket. This year the program made its biggest achievements yet with the launch of four prototypes on high altitude test flights. While three of the four succumbed to a fiery demise, the final one, SN15, successfully landed on the concrete landing pad in South Texas.
While the second half of the year brought a slow down in flight progress due to awaiting the FAA’s go ahead, we still have seen outstanding achievements. SpaceX fully stacked Starship Super Heavy vehicle and improved Starship’s thermal protection system tiles. SpaceX’s South Texas test site has genuinely turned into the physical representation of SpaceX’s mission to colonize Mars.
First private mission to orbit to inspire generations to come
For years NASA has stated that its Commercial Crew Program aimed to create a new market for private spaceflight. Unfortunately, until this year, that idea was mainly just a dream. However, earlier this year, a group of four private citizens strapped into a Dragon capsule and spent four days in orbit, achieving NASA’s goal.
Paid for by entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, the crew was selected to inspire future generations. Onboard was an artist, Sian Proctor, cancer survivor, Hayley Arceneaux, and an ordinary everyday person, Chris Sembroski. Together they formed the first private crew to fly to space, and the world was hooked.
The future of SpaceX
SpaceX is coming up on its 20th anniversary in May. Over the decades, the company has changed from wanting to send a greenhouse to Mars on an old Russian ICBM to developing an ahead of its time smallsat launcher and becoming the premier launch provider with its Falcon 9 rocket. Now it is moving on to make progress on its goal to colonize Mars. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about SpaceX’s Starlink internet service they are working on, too, something everyone else wants a piece of.
SpaceX in 10-20 years is hard to predict. If SpaceX can solve all its problems with Starship and Starlink, then colonization on Mars is a real possibility. One thing is for certain, with Musk’s ability to make dreams reality and his company’s innovative cultures, SpaceX will continue to push the space industry to new heights.