Last year, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled a masterplan to make humans a multi-planetary species by establishing a colony in Mars at the International Astronautically Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico. In his latest presentation at the IAC in Adelaide, Australia, he has provide an update to his 2016 presentation. Let’s have a look at the master plan in a nutsell:
In order to make humans multi-planetary, the first step is making a reusable rocket that can transport cargo and humans to anywhere in the solar system. The Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) is a huge spaceship that will make this possible. It will be powered by 42 of SpaceX Raptor Engine, which is still in development. It will be the most powerful rocket that will ever be build which can carry cargo to Mars of up to 450 tons. The booster system is referred to as the BFR. In his latest plan, he has scaled down the number of raptor engines to 31 in the ITS.
ITS rockets will launch spaceships into a parking orbit around Earth. The first stage will come back to the Launchpad to be refuelled. Then. It will launch a tanker version of the spacecraft. The propellant tanker goes up anywhere from three to five times to fill the tanks of the spaceship in orbit. Once the tanks are full, the ship would begin its long journey to Mars every 26 months.
Another key factor is making the trip affordable. It is estimated that the trip will cost $140,000 per ton. Hence, a trip per person will cost approximately $200,000 over time. But, it’s going to be a challenge to fund the whole endeavour. SpaceX will need to generate a lot of net cash flow from launching satellites and cargo to ISS.
According to the latest plan, he hopes to have the first launch by 2022 (that’s not a typo). At least two cargo ships are planned for 2022, in a move to confirm water resources and identify hazards as well as set up power mining and life-support infrastructure for future flights. The first crewed mission is planned by 2024. The craft will be able to hold 100 people in 40 cabins.
He also laid out a plan to establish a base on the moon. We will have to wait and see how this would emerge out in future. Another interesting fact is that BFR could also be used to transport people within the earth. The rocket would be able to travel across major cities in 30 mins and anywhere on Earth in less than an hour. A trip from Delhi to Sydney will take 36 mins. Although we don’t want a cost estimate, this could possibly work if it’s affordable.
At the end of the day, Space exploration is going to get even more exciting. Lockheed Martin Corp has also announced separate plans for a manned Mars journey – unveiling concept drawings of a “base camp” space station orbiting Mars and landing craft that would carry four astronauts to the planet’s surface. Many more players are expected to join the space race to colonize Mars. Only time will tell, who will be the real winner?