Peter Beck says Rocket Lab actively prepared for interplanetary missions ‘from day one’

Rocket Lab long ago graduated from underdog launch provider to industry heavyweight (with funding to match). Now the company is planning to go to the moon, Mars and Venus in the next decade. But it may come as a surprise that the company planned to go beyond Earth’s orbit from the very beginning, as founder Peter Beck explained at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021. In fact, it was in plain sight the whole time.

Beck explained with a touching anecdote that his own ambition to explore and learn from space goes back to his youth. “You know, the earliest childhood memory I have is standing outside in the bottom of the South Island, a little town in New Zealand called Invercargill, on a cold winter’s night looking at a crystal clear sky with my father,” he recalled. “He was pointing out to me that all the stars in the sky have planets on them, and perhaps on one of those planets, that could be somebody looking back and asking the same questions that I was asking.

“That really was the point in time where I decided that space was the thing that I was going to do. That memory stuck with me, you know, forever. I always felt that, if I could have the opportunity to go out into those stars and explore and perhaps ask or answer, one of the biggest questions in mankind’s history — ‘Are we the only life in the universe or not?’ — I would take that chance.”

Of course, many of us as children had aspirations to become astronauts and intrepid space explorers, but he put in the work, and has been “tremendously fortunate,” as well, he noted.

But more to the point, he said that the plan to go from low-lift rides to orbit to designing spacecraft and interplanetary missions has been part of the company all along.