Elon Musk

Elon Musk Will Soon Be Our Overlord In Space. Let’s Hope He’s Nice About It

By Matthew Alvarez

A couple of years ago you would of thought that the possibility of colonizing another planet was pure science-fiction, and you would equally think anybody wanting to attempt it was just crazy.

Like so many other scientific fantasies before it, that possibility is no longer a possibility, but an actual goal that is being made possible through the fact that we’re on the verge of a complete transformation of the space flight industry.

This revolution is being led by SpaceX, who are in turn led by the same guy that is trying to save our planet down here through Tesla, Elon Musk (here is a link to my article on that subject).

The world may seem like it’s plagued by enough problems to have to worry about another space race across our solar system, and ironically enough, that’s the exact reason why SpaceX wants to get us all the way to our red neighbor.

Just like Tesla, SpaceX had an ambitious yet tough start. The company was formally founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, after he sold PayPal to personally fund the company.

Prior to starting SpaceX, Musk had different aspirations, wanting to use current in-market rockets to start a Martian bio-experiment with plants.

After several visits to Moscow and with various rocket companies, Musk felt that the price to launch things into Space was too expensive, so he decided he would instead start a rocket launching company from scratch.

Photo Credit: OnInnovation/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: OnInnovation/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

He read and memorized everything he could on the subject matter and recruited rocket specialists to start re-envisioning what a rocket is.

Most rockets in use today are based off of cold-war era technology, or worse, were built during the cold-war era.

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To revolutionize space travel, SpaceX needed to make more efficient rockets to reach their first goal: Launch a rocket successfully into orbit at efficiently lower costs. After 3 failed attempts and on the verge of bankruptcy, on September 28, 2008, SpaceX would finally launch their first rocket model, Falcon 1, successfully into orbit, and land a 1.6 billion dollar contract with NASA.

Today SpaceX uses the Falcon 9, the name coming from their signature merlin engines, in which Falcon 9 has nine of. It’s one of the most advanced rocket systems on the planet, and is joined by the development of their dragon spacecraft and Falcon Heavy rocket system.

With the Falcon 9, SpaceX would become the first private company to dock with the International Space Station, send a satellite into orbit, and recover a launched space flight vehicle.

Space X has come a long way, but it’s most important accomplishments to date have only recently happened, creating new optimism across the entire scientific community.

Their current goal is to master re-using first stage rockets, which means getting launched rockets in orbit back to the ground in repairable condition, and favorably, in one piece.

Out of the last seven attempts, SpaceX has managed to successfully recover the Falcon 9 three times. After two failed landings on an autonomous barge in the ocean, history was made when Falcon9 landed back in Cape Canaveral, making SpaceX the first entity to land a rocket on the ground from orbit.

However, this was not SpaceX’s ultimate goal for reusability.

Ground landings cost more fuel, and often leave the rocket in worse condition than preferably landing in the ocean, which is more versatile but also more difficult. SpaceX would finally accomplish an ocean landing on April 8, 2016, and once again on May 6, 2016, with more landings planned for most future launches.

The re-usability of rockets is the key to lowering the cost of spaceflight by a considerable factor, being that it costs approximately 60 million dollars to construct each Falcon 9.

It’s important to note that recovering the rockets are currently the secondary mission of any individual launch, the primary objective is delivering the rockets payload successfully. To date, the Falcon 9 has had 24 missions, 22 of which were successful, creating a very impressive track record.

Everything SpaceX is doing now is leading to a culmination that they hope will enable them to reach Mars in the future, their true long term focus.

But SpaceX wants to do a lot more than simply get to Mars, they want to colonize it. All of a sudden this goal turns from a scientific venture, into a political, social, and ethical soup of many variables. We’re talking about human beings permanently living on a different planet within our lifetime. That statement begs the question, why do it?

Why leave Earth to live on an un-inhabited planet that doesn’t naturally support life? The answer is both inspiring and disheartening, but holds merit. With the fear of global warming, active nuclear arsenals, and the possibility of natural world ending events that will eventually happen (whether it be in 10 years or 1000), Elon Musk believes we need to “back up” the human race.

If something should happen to our home planet, we’ll at least have people elsewhere, ready to continue our existence.

This may not make sense to everybody, it might sound like an impossibility, but it is a valid concern held by some of the top minds of the world.

The calculated time it would take to reach Mars with current technology is about 2 years, along with geographic and atmospheric problems such as the Martian air being unbreathable, an average temperature of -63 degrees Celsius (-81.4 degrees F), and gravity 38% of Earth’s.

As you might imagine, colonizing Mars won’t be easy, and will likely take decades to fully realize. At minimum however, the colonization of another planet will still be the biggest scientific event of the last century, and will pave the way for a space faring future. As of now, SpaceX wants to get to the red planet by earliest 2018.

Photo Credit: OnInnovation/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: OnInnovation/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Optimistically, both NASA and SpaceX also want to get humans to Mars sometime in the 2030’s, with SpaceX having plans to unveil the technology to do so by the end of this year.

SpaceX’s progress is incredible and very exciting to watch unfold, but they aren’t the only private company in the business of space travel.

Notably are the current space industry juggernauts, Lockheed and Boeing, along with the repeatedly delayed program of Virgin Galactic. Other come-ups include Orbital Sciences and Blue Origin, both of which have contracts with NASA.

In the coming years, we’re going to be seeing a lot more companies and governments take up the challenge of getting us back to space, and re-igniting the thrill of venturing off world that was lost decades ago.

It’s a safe and certainly exciting bet that SpaceX will be leading the way back into the final frontier, but the ripples of their (hopeful) success will be just as important if we want to become a multi-planetary species.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Bill Brooks/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s How Elon Musk Is Going To Save The World

By Matthew Alvarez

A lot of people wonder when the future’s coming, while others make it.

That’s what Tesla is currently doing, and most everyday folks either don’t know or don’t care about it unfortunately.

A revolution of how we use energy to power our homes and transport ourselves is on the horizon, and the future is very bright.

For over a hundred years, the oil and car manufacturing industries have had smooth sailing, not just dominating their respective fields but also literally controlling how we as a species power the world.

That incredibly strong foundation is however, starting to show small cracks with concepts like climate change earning widespread recognition and evidence that we might be running out of fossil fuels sooner than later. Whether we want it to or not, the methods we use today to extract and use energy has to change, and Tesla is leading the way in widening those cracks.

Let’s start with a bit of context as to why Tesla is more than just your average high end car dealer. The company was founded by Elon Musk (a dude who not only created PayPal, but is currently running SpaceX, SolarCity and Tesla).

Realizing that electric cars could not only be practical, but also eventually affordable, Musk set out to create just that vision.

Tesla’s plan from the beginning was to make the Model 3 (which we’ll get to soon), but they needed capital and trust from the automobile market before, so they made the Roadster, a high end 100% supercar that goes 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds.

Then came the Model S, a 4 door electric luxury sedan that goes 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds and has the highest safety rating of any vehicle ever, followed by the Model X, an electric luxury SUV. The sales, high praise and recognition from these three EV’s (Electric Vehicles) paved the way for the flagship product that has every tech geek and automobile enthusiast either panicking or cheering for, the Model 3.

The Tesla Model S. Photo Credit: Christopher Dorobek/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Tesla Model S. Photo Credit: Christopher Dorobek/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There’s a reason The Model 3 made over 325,000 preorders with a $1000 deposit within days of its announcement.

Without any significant advertising the company has captured the world’s attention with its grassroots origins and completely unique business operation.

Tesla built their cars from scratch, reworking the idea of what makes a car, all with the goal of making the Model 3.

It starts at $35,000, goes from 0 to 60 in under 6 seconds, has a 5 star safety rating in all categories, can drive up to 215 miles on a single charge, and has autopilot. Oh and that’s just the basic version of it, Tesla is known to continuously update their vehicles, beefing up both software and hardware.

Alright cool, all that has somehow failed to impress you, so why should you care?

Because that package comes in the same price range as a Cadillac ATS, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes CLA, and Lexus IS (without Tax incentives). The Model 3 won’t just be competing with high end luxury vehicles like its predecessors, but will now enter the market of middle class affordable vehicles, which is the most important market to tap if they want to reach their goal of selling 500,000 Model 3’s.

The Model 3 is offering quality on par with luxury brands while staying just above current competitor EV prices. Tesla already proved you don’t need to sacrifice the commodities of a gas powered sports car for an electric engine, so if they keep up their end of the deal with the Model 3 they’ll prove that you can get more out of an electric powered car than whatever you’re driving right now.

To accomplish this very, very ambitious goal, Tesla started building their own battery production plant, a lithium ion battery Gigafactory, which will also happen to be the second largest building in the world volume wise.


The Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto, CA. Photo Credit: Windell Oskay/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Other than needing their own supply of mass produced car batteries, Tesla built this plant with another end goal in mind: Driving up the global supply of lithium ion batteries while cutting down production costs by getting rid of the middlemen, which in turn lowers prices of the battery by a projected 30%.

This is crucial for Tesla if they want to produce the Model 3s both in time and for a profit. Once production begins sometime in 2017, the Gigafactory will aim to double the world’s production of these batteries by 2020 when it becomes fully operational. To account for the lack of infrastructure to supplement long range travels with an EV, Tesla is building hundreds of charging stations worldwide along highways and major cities, called Superchargers, giving incentives for people who like to take long distance trips.

Of course all these magical accomplishments haven’t come without massive struggles. Tesla’s stocks have zig-zagged since its inception, and they almost went completely bankrupt in 2008.

They have pushed back every deadline they have ever set, and every new venture they take still has incredible risk to fail. Even with their impressive growth, their projected and current numbers only make a small dent in the auto industry compared to other EV’s (even if those other cars are of inferior quality).

There are endless reports on the obstacles Tesla has ahead of itself, which include likely deadlines pushes, lack of resources, long term failure to lower costs, and ultimately the demand for their vehicles outside of tech-savvy wealthy liberals (frankly). It’s important to understand all these upcoming challenges are valid and apparent, even if Tesla is currently addressing them.

What has seemed to be ignored by a lot of reports are the possibilities and implications the Model 3 would give not just Western society, but the future.

The optimistic future pans out if the Model 3 continues to run its hype train reaching 500,000 sales, and have the Gigafactory reach full manufacturing capacity by 2020 with only minimal deadline setbacks. At that point Tesla would cement itself as a serious threat to anything powered by gasoline. And of course there is the future beyond Model 3. Musk has always said that Tesla’s main focus would go to low cost, widely available products, so it only makes sense that we could possibly see cheaper versions of the Model S and Model X along with new models.

On top of its own growth, the influence Tesla has given to the rest of the industry to start experimenting with electrically powered vehicles has started seeing significant results. Cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt have gained traction, and more companies are pushing towards creating hybrids and EV’s every year.

With everything thrown at it, and every odd against it, Tesla has gotten this far and that’s an accomplishment in itself. They have passed their proving grounds, now Tesla is standing up to the test of time. It won’t be easy for them to reach the finish line that they are quite literally still building, but the change has started.

Electric cars are just a small step that the world will have to embrace and take if we want optimize our long term energy habits for generations to come. A world where you charge your car every night like you do your phone is closer than you think, and will need to be.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us

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