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posted by martyb on Monday December 11 2017, @01:26PM   Printer-friendly
from the competition++ dept.

Who will make it to Mars first?

It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in Chicago in October 2016.

On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—"We're going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we're going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."

Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."

The truth is that Boeing's rocket isn't going anywhere particularly fast. Although Muilenburg says it will launch in 2019, NASA has all but admitted that will not happen. The rocket's maiden launch has already slipped from late 2017 into "no earlier than" December 2019. However, NASA officials have said a 2019 launch is a "best case" scenario, and a slip to June 2020 is more likely.

#SLS2020

Also, the next SpaceX flight is an ISS resupply mission and is scheduled for this coming Tuesday (December 12, 2017) at 1646 GMT (11:46 a.m. EST) from SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The plan is for the booster to return to landing at Landing Zone-1, also at Cape Canaveral.

Previously: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
Elon Musk Publishes Mars Colonization Plan
SpaceX Appears to Have Pulled the Plug on its Red Dragon Plans
SpaceX Putting Red Dragon on the Back Burner
SpaceX: Making Human Life Multiplanetary

Related: VP of Engineering at United Launch Alliance Resigns over Comments About the Space Launch Industry
ULA Exec: SpaceX could be Grounded for 9-12 Months
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
SpaceX Unlocks "Steamroller" Achievement as Company Eyes 19 Launches in 2017
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Monday December 11 2017, @03:49PM (9 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @03:49PM (#608290) Homepage Journal

    Personally, I don't see Boeing beating SpaceX. But, I have zero inside information. I can only base my presumption on the fact that SpaceX has come out of nowhere, and accomplished as much as they have, in just a decade. Boeing has been at their business of bilking the government out of big bucks for a hell of a lot longer. I'd say that Boeing could and should have put real spacecraft into space a long time ago. At the least, why didn't they make a better space shuttle, after we lost a couple of them?

    Boeing isn't really serious about going to Mars. SpaceX is.

    Not only will Musk do it before Boeing, he'll do it cheaper.

    Again, that is only opinion. I WISH I had inside information though!!

    But, don't anyone be terribly surprised if the damned Chinese do it before any of ours do. That country is determined to dominate us in every field, and they move closer to that goal every day. Space exploration? It's on their list of things to do!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJSAvzEPf5w [youtube.com] (The intro is kinda disjointed, but the facts do come through)

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Monday December 11 2017, @04:16PM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Monday December 11 2017, @04:16PM (#608300) Journal

    I've looked into that. China is ramping up their space program, but their big spend in the near term is going to be on their own space station [wikipedia.org] (originally called Tiangong-3). It may come with a better-than-Hubble space telescope [popsci.com]. Which should be considered a good thing for the world (probably should have been done with the ISS). But it's still Low Earth orbit, nowhere near Mars, "ground" that has already been tread.

    They (CNSA) plan to send a rover [wikipedia.org] to Mars around the same time as NASA's Mars 2020 [wikipedia.org] rover and ESA's ExoMars 2020 [wikipedia.org].

    But none of the national space agencies have announced a plan to land on Mars. That's right, there is no plan to land on Mars. You hear about 2035 being the target date. Current NASA plans [wikipedia.org] would involve a lunar space station in the 2020s followed by a Mars space station around 2033. No manned landing. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are already working [popularmechanics.com] on the Deep Space Gateway lunar space station. Russia and other current ISS partners may join in [popsci.com]. Lockheed Martin's plan [wikipedia.org] would have (NASA) astronauts orbiting Mars around 2028, a bit more ambitious than NASA's current estimate. I think we all know that will slip into the 2030s.

    By comparison, SpaceX plans to land humans on Mars by 2024 [wikipedia.org]. I think that date is likely to slip, but it's the most aggressive plan of them all.

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  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday December 11 2017, @04:23PM (7 children)

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday December 11 2017, @04:23PM (#608304)

    At the least, why didn't they make a better space shuttle, after we lost a couple of them?
    Boeing isn't really serious about going to Mars. SpaceX is.

    To be fair, they surely didn't make a better space shuttle because the government wasn't willing to pay them to do so. They'd have been happy to build anything the government wanted I'm sure, it's just a question of the government providing the funding.

    But the big problem really seems to be the completely broken and dysfunctional relationship between contractors and the government, where the government pays tons of money to favored contractors and projects just stretch on, sometimes without ever getting done, with massive cost overruns. The way government acquisition works seems to encourage this.

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Thexalon on Monday December 11 2017, @05:43PM (6 children)

      by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @05:43PM (#608342)

      Let's say you're a boss at an entrenched government contractor, one that has substantial relation$hips with all of the relevant politicians and bureaucrats.

      Now, a contract job comes in, and you have two options:
      A. Work all-out to complete the job as quickly and efficiently as possible.
      B. Make it look like your working, but only kind of do the job, and send a small percentage of the money earned back to the politicians and bureaucrats as kickbacks to ensure they renew next year.

      Yeah, almost everyone picks B, because it's a lot more profitable.

      This happens at all levels of government, whether you're talking about local road repair jobs or big bucks federal defense contracts. It's more common when the politicians are in "safe" seats and don't have to worry about a serious election challenge, and have reached what they know will be the pinnacle of what they can accomplish in their careers (i.e. a city councilman who knows they will never ever become mayor).

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday December 11 2017, @06:29PM (5 children)

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday December 11 2017, @06:29PM (#608369)

        What I wonder is why it's like this, because in decades past it wasn't (or at least not nearly as bad). The US used to get projects done quickly, and for not that much money (inflation-adjusted). Look at all the bridges and highways that were built from 100 to 50 years ago, using the technology of the day. If things were as dysfunctional then as now, we wouldn't have them. And look at how fast military projects were completed: fighter planes were developed and put into production within 4 years. Compare that with the F-35.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday December 11 2017, @08:32PM (3 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @08:32PM (#608417) Journal
          My take is that the US went through a phase change in the early decades of the Cold War that created a fertile environment for such corruption: 1) huge increase in federal spending, 2) huge increase in complexity and opacity of federal government, and 3) a resulting huge disconnect between spending badly and any negative consequences for doing wrong. It's gotten to the point where they don't even try to do things right - defaulting to cost plus contracts and creation of programs that are likely to fail from the start.
          • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Monday December 11 2017, @10:48PM (2 children)

            by MostCynical (2589) on Monday December 11 2017, @10:48PM (#608506) Journal

            Don't forget "out sourcing", as opposed to the 40s/50s/even 60s style "partnering". It usedto be private companies and government worked together, with private and public money mixed, so a government project would have government and private employees working along side each other, possibly in a government building, possibly even with government oversight.

            Now, with profits and IP and insurance/risk issues, no company would allow government employees into their buildings where any work is done,nor would any government have private company employees around in a government bulding (unless appropriate rent/contracts/costs had been sorted, and certainly NOT where government work was being done!)

            Collaboration now means "at meetings, dividing up the funding".

            --
            "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
            • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday December 12 2017, @05:22AM (1 child)

              by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @05:22AM (#608646)

              nor would any government have private company employees around in a government bulding (unless appropriate rent/contracts/costs had been sorted, and certainly NOT where government work was being done!)

              That's not true. There's a LOT of government contractors working on-site in government facilities, frequently alongside government employees. Basically, it seems to be much like the reason private corporations hire contractors: it's a way for the government to more easily hire qualified people, and if they don't work out, get rid of them easily, even though it costs more on an hourly basis.

              • (Score: 2) by MostCynical on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:15AM

                by MostCynical (2589) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:15AM (#608674) Journal

                As replacement employees, not as employees of a private company working in partnership with the government.

                Worse, they may be technically employees of ServiceCompanyXYZ Ltd, adding its 30% to the hourly rate of te supplied contractor.

                The key word was partnership (with private company, as, well, equals)

                --
                "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it." -Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
        • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday December 11 2017, @11:04PM

          by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 11 2017, @11:04PM (#608519)

          Three reasons I can think of:
          1.They received substantially more funding, so even if a substantial portion was swallowed up in corruption there's still more work actually being done. It also means more effort could be put into oversight and administration.

          2. Decades ago, the major works projects were believed to be necessary for keeping America safe. For instance, part of the reason the interstates were built was that there was a real fear that the Commies would invade the US, and President Eisenhower being the smart general he was wanted to make sure that he could, for instance, easily move an army formation from California to New York in a reasonably timely fashion without airlifting it. So the people involved were more likely to actually care about the project being done because there were real problems if they didn't. By contrast, nobody really believes their survival depends on the F-35, for instance.

          3. The Republican Party in the early 20th century was based on an ideal of "good governance", with the goal of making the government as efficient as possible at what it's doing, which meant that people like Eisenhower were constantly on the lookout for money going places it shouldn't. The Republican Party after 1980, by contrast, believes that government is always hopelessly corrupt and inefficient, so their focus is not on eliminating the corruption so much as making sure as much of the graft as possible goes into their own pockets. The Democrats by all appearances followed suit after 1992, although they still try to pretend otherwise sometimes.

          --
          The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.