SpaceX - Are We On The Brink of a New Space Age?

The "Space Age" begun when the Soviet Union put its first satellite, the Sputnik, in orbit. It is a time when space exploration and space technology became the center of discussion, influencing not only the lives of bystanders and participants but the culture as a whole. Space technology evolved rapidly at first, with only four years passing between the first artificial object in space and the first human - Yuri Gagarin. The time of the Space Race followed, with the US and the Soviet Union competing in the development of their spacefaring capabilities (and probably to place nuclear weapons in orbit) - it ended in 1991, with the dissolution of the latter.

But then something new happened: technology has started developing at an unprecedented pace. The satellites revolutionized communication, allowing humans to speak and connect in new ways. The internet appeared, allowing people to share information and insights instantly over long distances, and play Royal Vegas casino games without leaving their homes. And slowly, space - which "belonged" to governments before - became accessible to private companies as well.

And then SpaceX was founded - and things started to develop at an accelerated pace.

Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, with the goal of reducing the costs of space flight, making it accessible for more people and companies, by developing a rapidly reusable launch system. His ultimate goal, in turn, was something many people have dreamed about: the colonization of Mars. After a series of trials and failures, it finally happened.

Among the landmark achievements of Elon Musk's SpaceX we count the successful launch of a privately funded rocket to reach orbit in September 2008, the first private spacecraft to reach the ISS in 2012, controlled landing of an orbital rocket's first stage on land (2015) and on a sea platform (2016), the first relaunch and landing of a reusable orbital rocket and the first reflight of a commercial cargo spacecraft in 2017.

SpaceX is continuously working on cutting the costs for space launches, making them accessible to an ever-increasing number of businesses and - in the future - individuals. By late 2013, the company managed to push the price down to $56.5 million per launch to low Earth orbit. But this is far from the true cost-cutting the company aims for: SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell was quoted saying at the Singapore Satellite Industry Forum in summer 2013 "If we get this right, and we’re trying very hard to get this right, we’re looking at launches to be in the US$5 to 7 million range, which would really change things dramatically."

We are, indeed, at the brink of a new Space Age - one where space flight can be accessible to many, and space tourism is no longer science fiction. And the dream of colonizing Mars, and becoming a multi-planetary species, has come within reach.

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