Race to Mars: Boeing vows to beat Musk to the red planet

Who'll take the high road and who'll take the low road?

Boeing's CEO has revealed that the company plans to be a key player in the new era of space exploration, particularly the push to put humans on Mars.

According to Bloomberg, at a recent conference on innovation CEO Dennis Muilenburg laid out his vision for a commercial space travel market that will include hypersonic travel between continents, as well as destinations that tourists will be able to visit in the Earth's orbit.

He also revealed that Boeing has its sights set even further than Earth, saying the company plans to be a major player in the effort to send humans to Mars – and could even beat Elon Musk's SpaceX to be the first to do so.

"I'm convinced the first person to set foot on Mars will arrive there riding a Boeing rocket," he said.

Ready, set, lift off

As one of the companies that helped the US in its race to beat the Soviet Union to the moon, Boeing is no stranger to space travel innovation. It's currently focused on building the commercial space sector and securing its place in it, just like SpaceX.

To do so Boeing is working with Nasa to develop a heavy-lift rocket called the Space Launch System, which will be used to explore deep space.

Unveiling SpaceX's Interplanetary Transport System last week, Musk welcomed competitors to his endeavor, saying: "I want to encourage the international community to build interplanetary spacecraft [...] The more, the better."

Laying out his plan for reaching Mars, Musk said that for him it was less about who gets there first, and more about "making a self-sustaining civilization" on the planet.

Although the technology is coming along quickly, costs will need to come down before we see the commercial space travel industry flourish. As Muilenburg pointed out: "The future of innovation has to include not only the technology, but economic viability."