Elon Musk announced his plans for Mars one year ago, laying out the idea for a “self-sustaining city” on the planet and changing space travel to the point where it is affordable as a bus trip across the United States. That could be an oversimplification, but we’re talking about an actual plan to colonize Mars and realistic logistics of making it happen. It’s no longer just science fiction.
Since a year has passed, Musk is taking the stage alongside representatives at Lockheed Martin to explain their latest plans to transport people to Mars, building a sustainable colony on the surface, and even a few extras. The presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia detailed the improvements in the technology that we’ve seen to this point, the successes Musk’s SpaceX has had with their Falcon 9 orbital rockets, and some of Lockheed’s separate plans for Mars in a decade:
Lockheed’s idea centers on a six-person space station, which company representatives have said could be orbiting the Red Planet by 2028 or so. The astronauts aboard this Mars Base Camp could perform a variety of valuable scientific and exploration work, from operating rovers in near-real time on the surface to scouting out spots for future crewed landings, project team members have said.
Musk on the other hand was a bit more secretive with what he would be sharing about SpaceX and the improvements with their rocket program. He did note that the Falcon 9 had completed 16 successful consecutive landings and had almost reached the point where landings are precise enough to remove the tripod from the base of the rocket and drop it back into its launch platform. He also added that the cost of the Falcon 9 and his reusable BFR rocket plans would almost reverse the costs of space travel, with plans for refueling in orbit.
Ahead of the presentation, Musk did surprise by sharing concept images of what his Mars City would look like and then unveiling art for Moon Base Alpha, something that is a change for Musk according to The Verge:
All of this has to do with Musk’s plans to refuel the BFR and Dragon in orbit, introducing easier methods to send missions to the Moon and creating the proposed Moon base as a sort of stop between Earth and Mars to “become a multi-planet species” according to Musk. He also added that the lack of Moon base right now is a bit of a shock for him:
“It’s 2017, we should have a lunar base by now. What the hell is going on?”
Musk also details what landing on Mars would look like, the trickiness of refueling the ship, and plans to send two cargo ships to the planet by 2022. The first BFR ship will be completed in 6-9 months if all goes according to plan. And what a lofty plan it seems to be, with Mars City looking gigantic by the end of the presentation:
More relevant to daily Earthbound use is what Musk closes his presentation with: using his propulsion system to travel from one city to the next here on Earth. It would turn a trip from Los Angeles to Toronto from a 5 hour trip (not counting stopovers) to a 22 minute jaunt that takes you to the edge of space and back. If the idea is to start heading to Mars starting in 5 years, how soon would this idea take hold and who is going to be brave enough to test it out? Should be interesting to see how it all works out. You can watch the full presentation below: