Tesla is about to be a side story on Elon Musk’s resume after what he just announced in Adelaide. Musk took to the stage at the International Astronautical Conference, currently being held in South Australia and outlined his plans to get to colonize Mars.
Musk began by explaining the critical breakthrough they’ve made is the ability to relaunch rockets successfully which dramatically reduces the overall cost of space travel. SpaceX now has 16 consecutive rocket landings.
Perhaps the biggest aspect of going to Mars is how to pay for that. Musk says he’s now confident they’ve worked through the details of how to make it a reality. During the presentation he showed off a number of simulations and slides that detailed the scale of the task ahead, but he believes they’ll finance it through SpaceX continuing to be a hired gun to launch satellites and resupply the International Space Station. He even suggested that should the world need them too, they could send up a rocket that collects space junk.
So confident with their ability to land successfully, Musk says they’re unlikely to need the landing feet in the future, with the precision increasing to the point where they could conceivably land back on the launch pad.
While putting humans on Mars has been talked about for decades, I don’t think anyone was prepared for how aggressively Musk would pursue this. His plan is to launch the companies largest rocket, the BFR in 2022 on a cargo mission to Mars. That’s just 5 years away!
Just 2 years later, he plans on sending 4 BFR rockets and some of these would contain humans. The BFR will by 48m long, 9m in diameter and have a 150 tonne payload. At the rear of the rocket lies 31 Raptor engines, creating 5,400 tons of thrust. This scale is simply amazing.
Musk pointed out their scale up from Falcon 9 rockets to Falcon heavy was actually far more of a significant challenge than first expected, with almost everything having to be re-engineered to support the larger payload. BFR is a significant leap again, so although much has been learnt, there’s likely many more to go. It’s definitely happening though, with Musk already putting in orders for some of the components, despite being 5 years away from launch.
Once there, Musk wants to the establishment of a city on Mars to start immediately. During the presentation, we got a glimpse of what that could look like. The exact timeline of how long this would take to establish obviously gets a little blurrier. Its actually hard to predict now as many of these tasks that are just around the corner were often thought as challenges we may not see in our lifetime.
Musk also believes its crazy we don’t already have a lunar base on the Moon. With SpaceX rocket technology, he believes this is possible and should be happening.
Forget Apple, forget Steve Jobs, Elon Musk is now the new master of One More Thing. Before concluding the presentation, Musk imagined why they wouldn’t deploy this technology to global travel here on earth.
Musk said it’d be possible to have launch locations around the globe that weren’t runways, but launch pads, for rockets. Right now we travel around 900km/h on the biggest planes, but with rockets, we’d be travelling up to 27,000km/h. That means, we could travel anywhere in the world in under an hour. Unimaginable before now, but actually makes logical sense. You can see the stepping stones to make that a reality.
Here’s the amazing video animation of how we might be travelling in the future. If I was Qantas, I might start to review my long-term business plans.