Can SpaceX Conquer the Moon?

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Monday that the company will take two private citizens on a voyage around the moon by the end of 2018. The trip gives a much needed boost to space exploration, which has been stagnant since the end of Nasa’s Apollo program nearly 40 years ago. If this goal can be achieved, it sets the stage for longer expeditions throughout the solar system and beyond. The timing of the announcement was perfectly placed following news of a set of potentially inhabitable planets found a mere 40 light years away from Earth.

SpaceX announces moon orbit for 2018.

Elon Musk Moves from PayPal to Futuristic Travel

SpaceX is one of several private companies that is developing space flight technology. Musk was originally a founder of PayPal.  He eventually invested in several companies dedicated towards next generation transportation options, such as SpaceX, Tesla Inc., and Hyperloop. Tesla, named for the inventor Nikola Tesla, promotes electric cars as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Hyperloop is an individual highspeed pod system which would travel from point to point through vacuum tubes.

SpaceX Develops Reusable Space Rockets

SpaceX is the most well-known of Musk’s transport companies. Musk originally conceived of a colonization program for Mars. It is currently creating reusable rockets for space exploration. The company’s first successful vertical landing took place in December 2015, and during 2016, the program achieved two more historic landings, one on a ship and one from geostationary orbit.

SpaceX Suffers Costly Failures

While the company has been able to develop cost effective propulsion systems at a fraction of the cost of NASA, some experts believe it comes at the cost of safety. SpaceX has suffered several setbacks, including a launch pad explosion in September 2016 which resulted in the destruction of a $200 million satellite. Critics claim that the company is willing to push the envelope without fully considering the consequences. This can be seen in setting a date for a moon circumnavigation before the rocket that will be used for the flight has been fully tested.

Amazon CEO Bezos Also Sets His Sights on Space

Musk is not the only billionaire with his eyes on the stars. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been the prime mover behind Blue Origin. The company is focusing on more modest goals than SpaceX, and is aiming to take tourists for sub-orbital flights. Bezos noted that much like early adapters in the air travel industry eventually led to flights becoming routine, he expects space tourism to eventually become a normal part of people’s vacation itineraries. .

NASA Discovers Four New Exoplanets

While SpaceX is pushing ahead in the private sphere, NASA is still on track to move forward with exploring the universe. This week, the agency announced the discovery of four earth-like planets orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1. Astrophysicists discovered the new planets by using the Spitzer space telescope. This brought the total number of planets known to be orbiting the star to seven. Scientists found that three out of the four new planets are within the star’s “Goldilocks” zone. This is the distance from the star in which liquid water is most likely to be found on the planet’s surface. The planets are relatively near, and according to NASA expert Aki Roberge, this turns visiting these planets into “more of an engineering problem than a laws of physics problem.”

Will Trump Bump up NASA’s Budget?

The news may also be good for NASA’s bottom line. President Donald Trump has already said that space exploration will be a priority under his administration. NASA’s current schedule calls for a manned mission to Mars within the next 25 years, but there has been political infighting regarding the size of the budget needed to achieve this vision. The Obama administration cancelled a planned trip to the moon. Some insiders believe that President Trump may support using SpaceX technology for rocket systems, instead of continuing the in-house Space Launch System (SLS) project.

How Will the SpaceX Announcement Affect Trading?

While SpaceX is a private company, many major players in the aeronautics industry design its rocket parts. Expect stocks in the sector to go up. Several companies also use SpaceX for satellite deliveries. The company’s continued success could push more companies to choose them as their launch provider. This will reduce costs associated with launching communications systems. This could lead to lower overhead for mobile phone providers. Watch for stocks in this sector to go up as well.

If President Trump increases the NASA budget, the dollar should go higher. Most of the funds designated for the space industry are usually spent on domestic  companies. Additionally, the public also gains access to many NASA discoveries. This also helps the American economy. NASA also has plans for several missions that will coordinate with the European Space Agency. The increased spending on these projects should help boost the euro.