Elon Musk has unveiled the newest spaceship from his company SpaceX. The ship, called Dragon V2, wasn't the sole focus of his announcement though. Rather what that ship represents – humanity's ability to colonise other worlds - was of highest importance.
The Dragon V2 capsule is made to allow for more trips to space at lower costs. Thanks to powerful jets and special landing legs this capsule can be landed accurately ready to be used again. Current capsules usually rely on a parachute and landing in water to be rescued.
The Dragon V2 module will launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This is one of three private rockets owned by SpaceX which it hopes to get funding for from NASA. It too can be re-used for multiple trips off-world.
One of the big goals for SpaceX is to sell its rockets and capsules to NASA at a rate that undercuts the current Russian pricing. Russia holds the monopoly on both station crew transports and capsules. It sells the Soyuz capsule trips to NASA for $60 million per round trip, which it uses to transport astronauts.
Elon Musk says that his SpaceX offering should be able to save NASA a lot of money. He estimates a cost of $20 million per trip which should be able to start by 2016.
The ultimate goal of Musk and SpaceX is to colonise the Moon and Mars. By lowering the cost of space travel, and simplifying it, SpaceX is bringing us closer to that goal.
The ability to reuse the Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon spaceships takes limits off space travel. Combined with 3D printing in space this could lead to simpler construction in space and on the Moon, or even Mars.
When Virgin Galactic puts on trips for the public to the Moon or Mars is still a long way off. But it's good to see that goal becoming more realistic.