It’s no secret Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. On September 29 2017, the billionaire entrepreneur shared his updated plans regarding the colonization of the Red Planet at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. The two factors that could make or break the Mars mission are the cost and the timeline, both of which Musk planned to address at the presentation. Here are the 4 things we learned from Elon Musk’s latest Mars colonization plan:
Unlike all of SpaceX’s other rockets such as the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy which have a reusability rate of 80%, the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) will be fully reusable, and capable of refuelling in space. The BFR is 106 metres tall with a 9 meter diameter and uses a total of 37 Raptor engines. SpaceX’s end goal for the BFR is to use it for resupply missions to the International Space Station, landing on the moon, sending missions to Mars and even travelling around the Earth. The most important advantage that the BFR has over the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy is its cost. Due to the fact that all parts of the BFR are reusable and the booster’s precision landing on its launch mount, the BFR is set to be the cheapest SpaceX rocket to date.
A comparison between other rockets and the proposed BFR
2. Setting up a permanent Moon base:
SpaceX wants to use the BFR to set up a Moon base. If we could set up a Moon base, we could make use of the various materials that are abundant on the Moon. For example, the Helium-3 isotope on the Moon can be used in fusion reactors and the polar ice caps could be melted and used as water. Furthermore, minerals such as Aluminium Silicate, Titanium, Iron, Magnesium, Platinum and some heavy metals could be mined from the Moon rather than from Earth where they are in limited supply and thus expensive. "It's 2017. We should have a lunar base by now. I mean, what the hell is going on?” Musk said.
3. The use of the BFR as a mode of transport:
At the end of his presentation, Elon Musk said that he hoped to use the inter-planetary rocket system for long-distance travel on Earth. He claimed that the idea will allow passengers to travel anywhere on Earth at the cost of an economy-class airline ticket. SpaceX uploaded a demo video to illustrate Musk’s idea:
In the video, the BFR takes passengers from Shanghai to New York in 39 minutes. This system of long-distance travel will be most useful when transporting materials to and fro between Mars and Earth and is aimed at speeding up the process of Mars colonization.
4: The Timeline:
The most important part of the presentation was the answer to the question, “When will humans go to Mars?” SpaceX aims to launch its first cargo mission by 2022 and then in 2024, wants to fly four ships to Mars which will include the first people to visit Mars. From that point forward, the process of colonization will start. These are pretty hefty goals laid down by Musk which should be taken with a grain of salt considering SpaceX’s poor history of handling deadlines. However, if everything does go as planned we’re only 5 years away from becoming an inter-planetary species, a feat that could redefine history.