Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of SpaceX, or at least, the company’s eccentric billionaire founder; Elon Musk. SpaceX, which aims to colonize Mars, has generated much publicity and buku controversy in the fifteen years since its inception, and is now the most talked about name in Aerospace Manufacturing.
So, if you find yourself trying to impress that cute nerd across the bar, here are ten talking points to get you started.
1. SpaceX started as a greenhouse project
In 2001, Elon Musk had the idea to land a small greenhouse on Mars to produce life on the red planet. The project, called Mars Oasis, would’ve sowed seeds in the Martian soil and used a re-hydrated gel to bring them to life. Initially, the goal of the project was to reinvigorate public interest in space exploration, a noble endeavor which would soon after become SpaceX.
2. They only hire the best. No, really
SpaceX employs five thousand people and offers stellar benefits to their workers. The catch, however, is that they only hire the best of the best, for every single position. When they needed someone to pilot the frozen yogurt counter in SpaceX’s cafeteria, Musk instructed one of his crew to “Go to Pinkberry and find the Employee of the Month, hire them”.
3. Why don’t they colonize the moon?
It’s a valid question. It’s certainly a lot closer, but as it turns out, the moon isn’t a good place for a colony. A moon day lasts about a month, there’s no atmosphere, lunar soil has a very high pH, and it’s small, which would cause long term colonization problems.
4. Didn’t a few of their rockets explode?
Two explosions, one in 2015 and another in 2016, have brought SpaceX some harsh criticism, but they may not have been all bad. While the explosions did destroy supplies intended for the International Space Station and a $200 million satellite, the incidents have forced the company to reassess its mechanical shortcomings, getting their mistakes out of the way long before a crewed mission.
5. Red Dragon…not the crappy movie
The next step in SpaceX’s race to Mars is the Red Dragon space capsule, which is set to launch in 2018. The Red Dragon missions will aim to perfect Martian lander technology in order to pave the way for human use, which will serve as the first significant steps towards the company’s long term goal of colonization.
6. Is that a billion dollars in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
SpaceX has raised more than $12 billion to fund its projects and research, including $100 million from Musk himself and a substantial $1 billion check from Google and Fidelity.
7. Get your bloody hands off my missile
Originally, Elon Musk wanted to use retrofitted ballistic missiles to launch payloads into space. In 2001, Musk traveled to Russia in search of ICBMs, and after it became clear that he knew little about rockets, designers allegedly spat on him, forcing the SpaceX team to return to America to regroup.
8. Of Course I Still Love You
Autonomous spaceport drone ships (ASDS) are used for the recovery of rocket stages after they break away from the rest of the spacecraft. These unmanned ocean barges, of which SpaceX has two, are officially named Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You.
9. You can go, just start saving your pennies
Originally, the estimated cost for a one-way trip to the Red Planet was roughly $10 billion per person, an amount most of us have just slightly less than, but the long term goal is now to reduce that cost to a mere $200,000 per person.
10. Sustainability is key
SpaceX’s goal is to find an overlap between the desire to go and actually being able to afford it. The only feasible way to do that, according to Musk, is by maximizing efficiency. This means reusing ships and vehicles and coming up with a way to produce propellant on Mars.