NASA Will Not Compete Against Elon Musk's SpaceX in Mars Journey

Nov 02, 2016 04:45 AM EDT

SpaceX's Elon Musk has been straightforward with his plans about taking humans to Mars in 2025 -- earlier than NASA's "Journey to Mars" scheduled in 2030. But NASA is not racing against the private space company.

According to Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's new associate administrator for science, SpaceX getting to Mars and bringing samples back to Earth should be a good thing.

"If Elon Musk brought the samples in the door right now I'd throw him a party out of my own money," Zurbuchen said in a report by Seeker. "I think that would be a huge success out of the strategies that were pursued by this administration of helping ... the private industry to really grow capabilities that 10 years ago were not around."

Zurbuchen, a former professor of space science and aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, also told the media that opposing viewpoints on space science should be tackled with empathy.

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"Just because somebody doesn't agree with us the first time we open our mouths doesn't mean that they're stupid, or we're smart or the other way around. I think it's really important to create, bring some empathy to the table," Zurbuchen said. "There's a lot of stuff that can be learned by just talking to people."

Early last month, aerospace company and manufacturing giant Boeing expressed its intent to beat SpaceX in the race to the Red Planet.

"I'm convinced the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket," Dennis Muilenberg, Boeing CEO, said during a conference in Chicago last month. The company is also set to launch the CST-100 Starliner -- its first space capsule -- in 2018. The vehicle was created in partnership with NASA and will transport astronauts to the International Space Station.

Musk accepted Boeing's challenge and welcomed the competition. "I really don't have any other motivation for personally accumulating assets, except to be able to make the biggest contribution I can to making life multi-planetary," he said in a statement.

"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."

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