(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Stephen Hawking: Space exploration is vital to our future

He told the Explorer's Club that we'd be "castaways on a desert island not trying to escape" if we don't explore

Sarah Gray
March 19, 2014 11:49PM (UTC)

SpaceX, the commercial spaceflight company, will launch its third commercial resupply mission on March 30, 2014. The mission, SpaceX-3, was postponed from its original March 16 launch date, and will deliver cargo to the International Space Station. It is only one of 12 resupply missions that the company will do for NASA.

The night before the originally proposed launch, billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk spoke at the Explorers Club’s annual dinner, where he accepted the Explorer Club President’s Award for Exploration. Attendees included Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, seven-time astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Diaz was honored with one of two Buzz Aldrin Quadrennial Space Awards, the other went to planetaryy scientist Maria Zuber for her work mapping Mars and the moon.


According to Scientific American, Musk said, “I think what we’re doing is evolutionary, but not revolutionary.” He stressed the need for a reusable rocket system. Falcon 9, which will be used on March 30 to deliver its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, is a step in the reusable direction. Its landing legs allow for a “soft landing” into an ocean.

Space exploration is often held back due to its enormous price tag -- and continuous cuts to NASA are not doing anything to help government-funded exploration. According to Extreme Tech, "For heavy lift vehicles, which are required to lift large satellites, equipment, and supplies into space, it costs somewhere in the region of $10,000 to lift a single pound ($22,000/kg) into orbit around the Earth." SpaceX wants to reduce this cost, by making rockets reusable, and if they do they'll reduce launch costs to around $500 per pound.

Musk doesn’t want to stop there. Eventually he’d like his company to send people into near Earth orbit and beyond! Half a million dollar flights to Mars is a final goal.


The event’s keynote speaker was famed astrophysicist and bestselling author Stephen Hawking. As reported by Scientific American, Hawking too would like to see humankind explore Mars. He stressed human missions to other planets as the foundation for the future. “Not to leave planet Earth would be like castaways on a desert island not trying to escape,” Hawking said. “Sending humans to other planets … will shape the future of the human race in ways we don’t yet understand, and may determine whether we have any future at all.”

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Discovery Elon Musk Exploration Planets Space Spacex Stephen Hawking

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