A June 23rd segment of CBS 60 Minutes, titled “Seeing red: Mankind gets closer to Mars,” focused on how SpaceX and NASA are setting their sights on flights to Mars by 2022. According to Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, NASA isn’t a competitor, but rather “a customer and a partner.”
SpaceX – whose business is described as “launching cargo, satellites and, soon, people into space for its customers: governments, communications companies, and NASA” – sent its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) in March of this year under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and became the only spacecraft capable of returning large quantities of cargo to Earth. In early May, a SpaceX Dragon rocket arrived at the orbiting ISS laboratory with 3 tons of supplies.
Gwynne Shotwell isn’t the only woman playing a leadership role in the move toward Mars. The 60 Minutes program also interviewed Kim Binsted, a professor at the University of Hawaii, and called her “the mastermind” behind an isolated habitat, perched on the side of a Hawaiian volcano. This habitat, that goes by the name HI-SEAS (for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation), is studying how humans will adapt and survive in the environment that is “as much like Mars as you can find on Earth.”
As programs seeking to explore the universe continue to depend on a space supply chain, more companies are getting involved. Recently, an article posted here also explained how three private companies have been awarded contracts to transport equipment to the moon.