I had the remarkable opportunity last week to tour the headquarters of SpaceX. What do you picture when you imagine a spaceship factory? I wasn’t sure either until I saw it, and then it seemed obvious: it is an enormous facility (outside of Los Angeles where Boeing 747 fuselages used to be built) with nearly 3000 people engineering and assembling the pieces that come together to become space rockets. There is even the control room where they monitor launches.
This is no flight of fancy. SpaceX has already sent crafts into space, taken NASA contracts, and even docked with the International Space Station. Touring around the production floor, where surprisingly young engineers, technicians, project managers and other workers put together thrusters and buff nose cones, it was cuttingly clear that this is what Henry Ford’s Model T factory must have felt like. Ford didn’t invent the car and Elon Musk didn’t invent the spaceship, but both men created the model by which these technologies became mainstream technologies.
Space travel, and especially the commercialization of space travel, is a contentious subject. Go ask your friends and see how heated the debate gets. I myself have very mixed feelings. Why should we be trying to settled on Mars (which is Elon Musk’s central mission with SpaceX) when we can’t even take care of this planet for which we are ideally suited?
But the fact is, humans are hubris-filled creatures and always expanding, exploring, and dreaming. There is no stopping our path to space. If things don’t collapse here at home too quickly, there is no stopping us creating settlements on other planets. If we can do it, we wil, for better or worse. All I can say now is that seeing it with my own eyes took my breath away.
(and no, I didn’t take that photograph as I wasn’t allowed to take any photos at all. thank you popular mechanics)
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