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Fact meets fiction: Boeing talks Mars at Comic-Con

The USS Enterprise from “Star Trek” and Millennium Falcon from “Star Wars” met their real-life match at San Diego’s Comic-Con International convention.

Thousands of comic and pop culture fans had the opportunity to talk with Boeing experts about the real possibility of a journey to Mars at this year’s convention in San Diego, Calif.

“We’re at Comic-Con because we know the young superheroes of today are the rocket scientists of tomorrow taking us on the human journey to Mars,” said Tony Castilleja, a Business Development lead for Boeing’s Space Exploration division supporting Space Launch System.

Employees from Boeing and NASA were among those staffing booths and participating on panels with titles like “Star Wars: The Science Awakens” and “Turning Science Fiction into Science Fact.” Attendees could chat with real rocket scientists about progress on the Space Launch System and Orion program, as well as NASA’s vision for human presence in deep space.

“People were constantly stopping to talk with us,” said Ben Barackman, a configuration design engineer in Phantom Works who helped staff the Journey to Mars booth. “When they asked us why we were here, I told them everything at Comic-Con is based on fantasy and science fiction. We’re here with science fact. We want to get people excited about American space programs; and hopefully, we can come back next year to continue telling people about going to Mars.”

Large rocket assemblies are coming together in New Orleans at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, where Boeing is building the core stages that will power the journey to Mars. Flight hardware for 2018’s first launch is in production, while the avionics are in development with NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.