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Is a mission to the moon really feasible?3 min read

November 10, 2020 3 min read

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Is a mission to the moon really feasible?3 min read

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All Things Science

We’re all familiar with the famous billionaire, Elon Musk, who has brought his company, SpaceX, really far in the space industry. He has high hopes for SpaceX’s future, as he hopes to return humans to the moon by 2024, build a moon base by 2028, and reach Mars by 2050. But are these dates really feasible, and what challenges will he face along the way?

SpaceX

Let’s start with what he’s done so far. SpaceX, Musk’s space exploration company, has reached 100 successful launches, (SpaceX 100 launches) with the Falcon 9 rocket launching 60 satellites into orbit on just one missiong. He’s sent humans back into space for the first time from US soil in over a decade, and has a new launch coming up on November 14.

SpaceX astronauts for its first mission to the International Space Station

Musk plans to build another rocket, on top of his two Falcon rockets, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. He’s calling it Starship, and plans to use this to go to the moon and beyond. Musk and SpaceX have already tested many prototypes, and feel like this could be the one.

A difficult journey

The first impediment to SpaceX’s journey is the distance. The moon is far away, and with all that we’ve done in spaceflight, that might not seem like much. But if you were traveling on a highway at 60 mph(96 km/hr), it would still take you almost 4,000 hours or about 5 months to get to the moon!

Also, the moon has no atmosphere. That doesn’t make much of an impact, right? It might not seem like a big issue, but here on Earth, we are protected by our atmosphere. Space radiation from the sun can be deadly, and SpaceX has to make sure to keep astronauts safe. 

Finally, the moon base itself needs separate launches to be able to build it because one launch cannot carry all the materials needed. Four years after humans land on the moon seems like enough time to build the moon base. SpaceX has to make sure, though, that radiation does not enter the moon base. Several safety measures must be in place to ensure this.

One step at a time

Eventually, Musk also plans to send Starship to Mars. Mars about 200 times further than the Moon from the Earth. And as stated before, all materials cannot be carried in one trip to build a base on Mars. For example, you’ll need A LOT of fuel to get to Mars, which is a 6-month trip one way. Musk has a simple solution to this problem. We all know methane, a greenhouse gas. Well, Elon Musk will send his space crew only with the fuel needed to go. He will refuel the rocket using a specific process that can convert carbon dioxide to methane, to fuel the rocket! Or that’s the plan so far…

Even with all the accomplishments Elon Musk has made, his current target dates maybe a bit of a stretch. SpaceX is still a long way from building its first fully made Starship, and even that has to go through multiple rounds of testing before it can even launch humans.

Musk has to make sure there are no flaws by launching it multiple times, without humans, until it is perfectly safe for humans to go. Although these dates will most likely not stand, we are excited to see humans go to the moon and beyond!

Guest Author: Rishi Jain

Featured Image: The New Yorker

Rishi is a 7th grader and basketball fan. He has a sports YouTube channel with 50 subscribers and aspires to make it 1M someday. He likes watching space launches, reading about building rockets.

(All Things Science is a weekly column on astronomy, space and science)