How much does a mission to space cost? One of the least expensive missions, the Lunar Prospector, cost $63 million. The most expensive, the International Space Station, cost $100 billion. With prices that high, space travel isn’t exactly efficient. But some people believe this can change. If vehicles could be reused, for instance, instead of having to be created from scratch or undergoing serious refurbishment for each new mission, that would knock some dollars off the price tag. And that’s exactly what Elon Musk of SpaceX wants to do.
Of course, this isn’t a brand new idea. In fact, the whole concept of the space shuttle program was just what it sounded like—being able to shuttle back and forth to space in the same spaceship. Unfortunately, refurbishing the shuttle components was pricey and time-consuming. But shortly after NASA ended the shuttle program in 2011, Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin launched an incredible rocket. It took off vertically and landed vertically after reaching space—something no other rocket had ever achieved. However, it didn’t actually enter orbit. That milestone was left for SpaceX to achieve, which it did a few weeks later. Their rocket Falcon 9 placed eleven satellites in orbit, and then successfully touched down on earth. After that, SpaceX relaunched the main body of the Falcon 9 in March 2017—the first time this was ever done for an orbital rocket.
Making space travel cheaper would make it easier for humans to live “multi-planetary” lives, says Musk. “If humanity doesn’t land on Mars in my lifetime I would be very disappointed.”