It’s official: Boeing’s CEO just started a ‘Private Space Race’

Boeing, the company that created the most powerful US rocket ever built and helped the country win the race to the moon, is now turning its gaze to Mars, as its CEO unveiled an ambitious plan to reach the Red Planet before rival SpaceX during a Tuesday conference in Chicago.

Speaking at an event on innovation, Boeing executive Dennis Muilenberg told Bloomberg and other media outlets that he was “convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket.” While his company is working with NASA on its Space Launch System, Muilenburg said that they are also focused on commercial space-travel development.

Boeing is developing the SLS rocket for NASA's journey to Mars. (Credit:  NASA)

Boeing is developing the SLS rocket for NASA’s journey to Mars. (Credit: NASA)

The comments come roughly a week after SpaceX head Elon Musk outlined his plan to establish a self-sustaining colony on Mars, and to sent people there using a fleet of ships that could carry a thousand people or more. Like Musk, Muilenburg said that he envisions a future where people could quickly travel from Earth to Mars or other planets on hyper-sonic ships.

“Over the last 100 years, it is remarkable to think that men and women went from walking on the Earth to walking on the moon, we went from riding horses to flying on airplanes,” the CEO noted during the event, according to ABC News. He added that he envisioned “even greater” and “even bolder” technological advances over the next century.

Next-generation Space Race set to take place in the private sector

Muilenburg went on to tell reporters that he believed the future would bring breakthroughs in the field of “supersonic, hyper-sonic travel” as well as “the ability to connect anywhere in the world in a couple of hours.” He added that space tourism would be “blossoming over the next couple of decades into a viable commercial market,” according to Bloomberg and ABC News.

Furthermore, the Boeing CEO stated that he believed the International Space Station  (ISS) could be joined in orbit by space hotels and micro-gravity research and manufacturing facilities. Such a future is “fascinating” to his company, Muilenburg said. When laying out his company’s plans in September, Musk compared establishing a space transport system to “building the Union Pacific railroad.” Using that metaphor, Boeing seems confident it can lay down its tracks first. (Hopefully without the related horrible working conditions– maybe not the best comparison.)

Of course, Boeing and SpaceX are not the only aerospace companies competing for a slice of the space travel pie: Blue Origin, the firm established by billionaire Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, passed an in-flight escape test earlier this week after having previously landed a reusable booster rocket after liftoff. SpaceX has successfully completed the latter feat on multiple occasions as well.

Unlike Musk and Muilenburg, Bezos has kept his ultimate space-travel plans “close to the vest,” according to the Los Angeles Times. He has, however, teased a new rocket, the New Armstrong, which the newspaper said is capable of sending a launch vehicle to the moon. While the future remains uncertain for all three companies, one thing is certain – as ABC news put it, “the race to the red planet is on,” only this time the Space Race will be waged in the private sector.


Image credit: Bloomberg