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In Race to Mars, Boeing is Confident It Will Beat SpaceX

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Earlier this week, aerospace giant Boeing Co. (BA - Free Report) CEO Dennis Muilenburg made it clear that his company will create the first ever rocket to land on Mars, despite hot, flashy competition from SpaceX and its billionaire chief, Elon Musk. Mr. Muilenburg was speaking at a conference the “What’s Next” conference in Chicago sponsored by The Atlantic.

“I’m convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket,” Muilenburg said, and he could be correct. Just days after Musk laid out grand plans for SpaceX’s “Interplanetary Transport System,” a ship-like structure that would ferry passengers to Mars, Muilenburg described a more commercialized vision for future space travel—space tourism, if you will. There would be dozens of destinations orbiting Earth, while hypersonic aircraft would shuttle travelers to different continents in two hours or less.

Unlike SpaceX, Boeing has a reliable and trustworthy track record in space travel: it helped the U.S. beat the Soviet Union to moon in 1969. They built the first stage for the Saturn V, which took astronauts to the moon and back, and is the most powerful U.S. rocket ever built.

Recently, the company has been working with NASA to develop the Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-lift rocket to be used for deep space exploration. Boeing, along with SpaceX, are actually the first companies to be selected by NASA to transport astronauts to the International Space Station.

Musk, however, does not seem to mind that Boeing has entered the Mars race. "I think it's actually much better for the world if there are multiple companies or organizations building these interplanetary spacecraft. You know, the more the better. Anything, I think, that improves the probability of the future is good,” he said at the recent International Astronautical Congress.

Mr. Muilenburg said that costs will need to drop significantly before any of these experimental aircraft can be considered for commercial use. According to Engadget, Boeing is hoping to launch its first manned flight sometime in the 2030s, while SpaceX is aiming for the year 2024—only eight years away!—for its manned mission.

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