In 2004, Elon Musk discussed partnering with NASA for the next era of space travel. This weekend marks a major milestone
In a 2004 interview with CNN, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discussed his ambitions to partner with NASA and to one day send people into space.
“I think what we’re doing is critical to the future of NASA,” Musk said at the time.
This weekend, nearly 16 years later, Musk’s SpaceX has done just that.
On Saturday afternoon, SpaceX and NASA made history by launching two astronauts into Earth’s orbit. The launch marks several milestones: It is the first time in nearly a decade that astronauts have been sent to space from US soil, the first crewed mission for SpaceX and the first time a privately developed spacecraft launched humans into Earth’s orbit.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of CNN’s founding, the newsroom is digging into its vault and releasing archived footage of old interviews, which offers a chance to look back at how the people, companies and stories CNN covers have evolved.
The astronauts who were launched into space during Saturday’s mission will be sent to the International Space Station. But even a dozen years ago, Musk wanted to help NASA go even further.
“I think fundamentally the way we help NASA is by lowering the cost of access to space, allowing us to do more interesting things for a given budget,” Musk said in 2004. “If we’re to go to the moon, if we’re to go to Mars, which is the stated objective … there is no way we’re getting there on the current NASA budget unless there are dramatic improvements in cost. So I think a company like SpaceX is really vital to NASA achieving its mission.”
SpaceX struggled to successfully launch its Falcon 1 rocket. But in September 2008, on the fourth try, the rocket finally took flight. Two months later, in December 2008, NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract to operate cargo resupply flights to the International Space Station. Since then, NASA and SpaceX have worked together on a number of other missions.
During the 2004 interview, Musk said he envisioned demand for sending satellites and cargo into space growing, and he also imagined the space business expanding into new categories, too.
“I think you’ve got space tourism or space adventure,” he said. “That, I think, is likely to be the biggest driver.
Today, SpaceX continues to build and test early prototypes of its Starship spacecraft, which Musk has long billed as the vehicle that will one day carry the first humans to Mars, and competitors such as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are also building technology aimed at enabling space tourism.
“What I think we’re beginning to see is the dawn of a new era of space exploration,” Musk said in 2004. “One that is driven by commercial companies as much, if not more, than by government.”