The Mars race,[1] race to Mars[2][3] or race for Mars[4] is the competitive environment between various national space agencies, "New Space" and aerospace manufacturers involving crewed missions to Mars, land on Mars, or set a crewed base there. Some of these efforts are part of a greater Mars colonization vision, while others are for glory (being first), or scientific endeavours. Some of this competitiveness is part of the New Space race.


The race to Mars involves competition between manufacturers and nations.[5] NASA has demurred in a potential rivalry with SpaceX or other manufacturers in any possible race to be first to Mars. It instead sees synergies in possible cooperation with such entities.[6] However, politicians may push NASA into competition with private entities such as Boeing and SpaceX in getting humans to Mars.[7] Former president Donald Trump has planned for NASA to reach Mars in the 2030s.[2][8][9]

Boeing has stated that one of its rockets will lead to the first crewed expedition to Mars, before SpaceX or others will land a crewed mission. Boeing is the primary contractor on the U.S. Space Launch System (SLS) NASA rocket program that has the ultimate goal of a crewed Mars mission. SpaceX has declined to state that it is a race, or that it needs to race Boeing.[10][11][12][13]

Blue Origin has stated that with its New Armstrong and New Glenn rockets, it may be attempting missions to Mars, head-to-head with the SpaceX Starship.[14][15] This may result in commercial competition going to Mars.[16]

Virgin Galactic has expressed interest in future service to/on Mars.[17][18][19][20][21]

In 2019, SpaceX started to develop their own hardware, the Starship with initial launches planned for the early 2020s, followed by a cargo mission to Mars planned for 2027 and a crewed Mars mission in 2029 with the goal of setting up a propellant depot and the beginnings of a Mars base.[22][23] As of 2024, Starship has achieved orbit in a partially successful flight test.[24]

Inspiration Mars planned a crewed flyby of Mars using third party hardware but has been inactive since 2015.

It is widely thought that NASA and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) are in a tacit race to put humans onto Mars. China is projected to have a crewed follow-up to 2020s robotic exploration project sometime after that; while NASA has a timeline of getting there in the 2030s.[25][26][27][28]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Cheryl Werber (18 September 2016). "Could NASA Lose Mars Race to SpaceX?". CDA News. Archived from the original on 22 May 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b Alexis Christoforous (13 March 2017). "Here's how you can profit from the race to Mars". Yahoo Finance.
  3. ^ "Game On! Boeing Wants to Beat SpaceX in the Race to Mars". Nature World News. 6 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Elon Musk and a Boeing Rocket Are in a Race for Mars". The Kindland. 5 October 2016.
  5. ^ Ben Rosen (10 October 2016). "Did Boeing's CEO just kick off a billionaires' space race?". Christian Science Monitor.
  6. ^ Irene Klotz (1 November 2016). "NASA: We're Not Racing SpaceX to Mars". Seeker.
  7. ^ Emily Marks (20 October 2016). "NASA Joins SpaceX And Boeing On The Race To Mars". University Herald.
  8. ^ Darlene Superville (21 March 2017). "Trump Wants to Send Humans to Mars". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press.
  9. ^ Ron Duwell (22 March 2017). "NASA's new goal of getting to Mars by 2033 set by President Donald Trump". TechnoBuffalo. Archived from the original on 4 October 2018. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  10. ^ Julie Johnsson (4 October 2016). "Boeing CEO Vows to Beat Musk to Mars". Bloomberg.
  11. ^ Eric Berger (5 October 2016). "Boeing CEO jabs SpaceX, says Mars explorers will ride his rocket". Ars Technica.
  12. ^ Jamie Condliffe (5 October 2016). "The 21st-Century Space Race: Will Boeing or SpaceX Be First to Mars?". MIT Technology Review.
  13. ^ Emily Marks (14 October 2016). "Boeing May Beat SpaceX To Mars And Elon Musk Is Fine With It". University Herald.
  14. ^ Alan Boyle (27 September 2016). "Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture sets its sights on trips to Mars and the moon". Yahoo News.
  15. ^ Nick Stockton (13 September 2016). "Jeff Bezos' New Rocket Could Send The First People To Mars". Wired.
  16. ^ Doug Mohney (29 September 2016). "SpaceX and Blue Origin Talk Seriously Going to Mars". Tech Zone 360.
  17. ^ Danica Lo (3 October 2016). "Richard Branson Wants to Build Hotels in Space".
  18. ^ Miriam Kramer; Jessica Plautz (2015-11-06). "Sir Richard Branson wants to colonize Mars, but he's willing to share". Mashable.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ "Richard Branson on space travel: "I'm determined to start a population on Mars"". CBS News. 18 September 2012.
  20. ^ Henry, Caleb (24 October 2019). "Virgin Orbit to add extra rocket stage to LauncherOne for interplanetary missions". SpaceNews. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  21. ^ O'Callaghan, Jonathan (9 October 2019). "Virgin Orbit Is Planning An Ambitious Mission To Mars In 2022". Forbes. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  22. ^ spacexcmsadmin (2016-09-20). "Mars". SpaceX. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  23. ^ Torchinsky, Rina (17 March 2022). "Elon Musk hints at a crewed mission to Mars in 2029". NPR.
  24. ^ "Starship's Third Flight Test". SpaceX. Archived from the original on March 6, 2024. Retrieved 2024-03-14.
  25. ^ Chris Cooper; Kiyotaka Matsuda (29 November 2016). "The U.S. and China Are Fighting Over Mars, but Japan May Win the Space Race". Bloomberg.
  26. ^ Jacob Brogan (6 April 2017). "What Slate Readers Think About the New Space Race".
  27. ^ Are We Losing the Space Race to China?. Space Subcommittee Hearing. United States House of Representatives. 27 September 2016.
  28. ^ Clay Dillow (28 March 2017). "China's secret plan to crush SpaceX and the US space program". CNBC.