So far NASA has launched several spacecraft on different planets. But at present, the government and private companies have started a race to send astronauts to Mars. They have already launched different spacecraft of different sizes, some of them are bigger in size and some of them are small. Let’s discuss one by one how all the Mars-bound rocket stack up.
In 1960, NASA “Saturn V” rocket is the most significant rocket among all spacecraft. It is 363 feet tall, with 7.5 million pounds of liftoff thrust. It remains the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket that has been ever built. It retired in 1973.
In 2011, United Launch Alliances launched “Atlas V” spacecraft from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This spacecraft lifted off with NASA’s one-ton Curiosity Rover, which is bigger in size. The “Atlas V” is ultra-reliable and in 2020, it will also carry Curiosity’s cousin. In addition, the price of each rocket configuration is near about $163 million with a maximum payload capacity of 11,000 pounds.
China is not fast enough to the space race but they are trying harder to catch them fast. “Long March 5” is the most powerful rocket of China, developed by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology with a maximum payload capacity of 25,000 kilograms. Nation’s first rover to Mars spacecraft will be launched in 2020.
In 2017, Space X is debuting “Falcon Heavy” spacecraft with a maximum payload of 30,000 pounds. It will be the world’s most powerful rocket by a factor of two. This spacecraft can lift twice as much weight as any current rocket. It is expected to launch in 2020 with Mars capsule. In that case, Space X might beat NASA to putting boot prints in red dust. However, the total cost to launch is $90 million.
A few years later, NASA’s “Space Launch System” will carry astronauts into lunar orbit. After that, it brings NASA’s first crew to Mars in 2030s or may be 2040s. The total cost to launch this spacecraft is $500 million with maximum Mars payload of 90,000 pounds.
Another spacecraft from Space X, it is named as “Interplanetary Transport System” (ITS). Experts are still working on it. According to them, ITS will be the largest rocket in the world, capable of carrying 100 settlers to the red planet. This huge spacecraft is expected to launch in 2024 but it will need funding first.