SpaceX’s Elon Musk To Unveil Mars Colonization Plan


SpaceX wants to send a Dragon spacecraft to Mars as early as 2018

Buzz is building for a long-awaited speech Elon Musk will deliver Tuesday outlining his ideas for how to establish a city on Mars within a decade. This will be an historic and groundbreaking event.

At the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, the SpaceX founder and CEO is expected to offer more detail about a system he’s called the “Mars Colonial Transporter,” including a massive new rocket and spaceship that could deliver 100 people to the Red Planet.

“My sense from the space enthusiast community is that the speech is very highly anticipated,” said Scott Hubbard, a consulting professor at Stanford University and former “Mars czar” at NASA. “Supporters are looking for a private humans-to-Mars approach.

Detractors may point to a Falcon 9 rocket’s launch pad explosion just a few weeks ago as evidence of a mismatch between Musk’s rhetoric and reality. Musk himself has teased the speech, which is titled “Making Humans a Multi-planetary Species” and will be streamed online, with a sense of humour.

3.4 billion years ago meteors struck Mars, causing tsunamis that changed the shape of a coastline surrounding one of its oceans. According to researchers, the tsunami’s waves would have been as high as the Great Pyramid of Giza. USA TODAY

“I think it’s going to sound pretty crazy, so it should be at least entertaining,” he said earlier this year at Kennedy Space Center, after SpaceX launched supplies to the International Space Station. According to the conference program, Musk will discuss potential colonization systems on which industry and governments could collaborate in the coming years.

However crazy the ideas sound, they are central to why Musk has said he founded SpaceX back in 2002. The company became established by flying NASA cargo to the ISS and launching commercial satellites. It hopes to start flying NASA astronauts to the station by 2018. But Musk’s loftier Mars ambitions, marketed on SpaceX’s “Occupy Mars” T-shirts, caps, and mugs, have won legions of fans hungry for deep space exploration not seen since the Apollo era.

“Elon has been saying since the beginning of SpaceX that they were focused in the long-term on Martian settlement,” said Hannah Kerner, executive director of the Space Frontier Foundation. “Especially in comparison to the speed that NASA’s ‘Journey to Mars’ has been moving, people are really looking to SpaceX to follow through on what they’re saying.”

So far, Musk has said SpaceX plans to launch an unmanned “Red Dragon” spacecraft to Mars in 2018, the first in a regular cadence of missions as the planets align every 26 months. A giant new, reusable rocket could fly as soon as 2022, powered by the methane-fueled Raptor “interplanetary transport engine” that Musk on Monday said has just completed its first test-firing. People could launch just two years later, headed for a landing in 2025.

That’s at least a decade before NASA anticipates putting astronauts near Mars, without landing, under the program promoted as the “Journey to Mars.” Precisely how Musk envisions pulling that off that has been the subject of intense speculation for years. His schedule projections are often too optimistic. But he’s also defied doubters with technological breakthroughs such as landing Falcon boosters that could lead to reusable rockets.

In June 2014, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk discussed

In June 2014, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk discussed the Crew Dragon during an unveiling ceremony for the new spacecraft inside SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. The spacecraft is designed to carry people into Earth’s orbit and was developed in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. (Photo: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

“Part of it is chutzpah, and then part of it is accomplishment,” said Bruce Pittman, a National Space Society board member and chairman of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Commercial Space Group. “It’s Babe Ruth pointing out to center field and saying, I’m going to put the ball out there.”

Pittman, a Musk fan, writes in a paper he’ll present at the same conference that it would be “an extraordinary achievement if he can come anywhere near to meeting this timeline.” Beyond the rocket and spaceship needed to get there, Mars-bound crews would face challenges surviving radiation blasts, prolonged exposure to microgravity and equipment breakdowns. Tons of food and logistics would need to be staged in advance to make it habitable.

Musk has openly said that people will die in the effort to establish and sustain a Mars city, but they will know the risks. Some compare that acceptance of risk to the early days of aviation, and see it as inherent to any pioneering exploration endeavor.

Kerner said SpaceX, along with other commercial space companies, has helped foster a culture in which enthusiasts see space exploration as something they want to take part in, not something left to a few chosen astronauts. “SpaceX is saying, this is for everyone, this is technology for humanity,” she said. “We’re bringing people to Mars because that’s what humans do: We explore and we expand.” Source: FloridaToday

SpaceX test-fires ‘Raptor’ rocket that will take humans to Mars

SpaceX has done its first test of the Raptor rocket engine that will take humans to Mars as early as 2024, Elon Musk said in a series of tweets. It was fired at the company’s McGregor, Texas facility on a stand that can handle the extreme thrust. Pointing out the “mach diamonds” from the test (above), Musk said the “production Raptor goal is a specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN [680,000 pounds],” more than three times that of the current Falcon 9.

The methane fuel-powered Raptor will be more powerful than any current rocket. It’ll eventually lift the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), formerly known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, loaded with 100 tons of cargo, toward the red planet. The company plans to launch an unmanned craft to Mars by 2018 and get humans there by 2024. That’s an ambitious target, especially considering its recent launchpad mishap.

Elon Musk will give a speech tomorrow at the International Astronautical Conference in Mexico, titled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.” He’s expected to unveil the design of the Interplanetary Transport System and overall plan for colonizing the red planet. Musk will also reportedly talk about the budget and try to convince government and the scientific community to help pay for the undertaking. After the recent disaster, a successful test-firing of the Raptor will no doubt help his cause.

Update: The Mars Colonial Transporter is now known as the Interplanetary Transport System. The post has been updated with that info, and thanks to the commenters who pointed it out.  Adapted: Engadget

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