SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk has revealed his plan to send humans to Mars on a new spacecraft, with the first flights beginning in the 2020s.
At 67th International Astronautical Congress September 26- 30th in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk gave a presentation in which he described his plans to send humans to mars in the next decade. He has predicted that if successful, this would be achieved using the largest rocket ever designed, to launch a spacecraft which will be capable of delivering up to 100 people into orbit. The rocket booster they will be using will be reusable, like SpaceX’s existing Falcon 9 rocket, and well return to the launch pad for taking the another takeoff. There will be another rocket launch which would deliver fuel to the awaiting spacecraft, after which solar panels would be unfurled for the remaining Journey to Mars.
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Musk claims that the trip to Mars could take as little as 80 days, significantly faster than most of day’s unmanned probes that typically need 180 days. During the arrival at the red planet, the spacecraft will land on its feet using retro-propulsion rockets. It would be named “Heart of Gold” after the ship commanded by Zaphod Beeblebrox in Douglas Adams famous novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guid to the Galaxy”. Then the austronauts would then step onto the surface of a new planet, becoming the first human to do so. Now for the return trips to earth, rocket fuel could be synthesized on Mars itself from water and CO2.
However, he wants to begin sending equipment and supplies to Mars every two years, starting with the first Red Dragon mission in 2018. The first humans could follow by the mid-2020s.
When it comes to technologies, Musk is well known for his ambitious schedules such as electric and self-driving cars. This has raised concerns regarding the financial and technical feasibility. During the presentation, he was also somewhat vague about the growing of food on Mars and the generation of energy. He said nothing about the problem of Martian dust, which not only covers solar panels, but could pose a serious risk to the astronauts’ health in breathed in.
Musk was confident in term of the costs involved. According to the current technologies, the trip to the Mars would costs upwards of 10 billion dollars. But the Musk hopes to bring this down substantially so that, in the not too distance future, a ticket to Mars could be bought for only $100,000. This will enable many thousands of people to settle on Mars. He is seeking backers for the public private partnership. The interplanetary division of SpaceX currently receives up to $30 million per year in funding but this will increase substantially after the final version of the Falcon 9 rocket is rolled out. The reusability of Mars spacecraft, in orbit refueling and on-site propellant production would reduce costs by “orders of Magnitude”.