Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has admitted that his rocket company, SpaceX, would not exist without Apollo 11, but claims it will go further.
In an interview with Time Magazine to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, Musk revealed how the Apollo 11 mission inspired his fascination with space.
“Apollo 11 was one of the most inspiring things in all of human history,” he said. “I’m not sure SpaceX would exist if not for Apollo 11.”
SpaceX now uses Cape Canaveral’s launchpad 39A, from which nearly all of the Apollo lunar missions took off, to launch rockets to the International Space Station.
“I can’t believe we get to use that pad,” said Musk. “We’re not worthy! This pad is too good.”
SpaceX has plans for a crewed flight around the moon as early as 2023, but Musk envisions much more.
His longer-term ambition is to establish a base on the moon, which would in turn act as a stepping stone to establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars.
“We really want to have a vehicle that is capable of sending enough payload to the moon such that we could have a full lunar base, like we’ve got a permanently occupied base in Antarctica,” Musk said.
“[But] it’d be absolutely way cooler to have a science base on the moon.”
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are currently used to deliver cargo to the ISS, but the company is testing a new space capsule that will carry astronauts to and from the floating space lab.
It is also developing bigger rockets that will be able to travel deeper into space.
The company’s Falcon Heavy rocket is the most powerful currently flying, with 5 million lbs of thrust, and it is working on an even more powerful rocket, the Falcon Super Heavy, which will be able to generate 10.8 million lbs of thrust.
This will be able to carry up to 100 passengers into space, inside a 180 ft. orbiter called Starship.
It’s the Super Heavy, not the existing Falcons, Musk believes, that will get humans past the “flags-and-footprints” model of the Apollo era and toward a more permanent presence on the moon and, later, Mars.
“We could sort of do a repeat of Apollo 11, a few small missions [with the Falcon Heavy], but the remake’s never as good as the original,” he said.