SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave more insight into his plans for Mars colonization. He went into a bit more detail about the timelines and vehicle requirements to not only reach the Red planet but setting up a sustainable base with a city supporting a local population. Musk revealed the plans to his fans on Twitter, which might be impressive or incredibly ambitious, depending on your perspective.
Addressing a question about comments Musk made a few days ago at the U.S Air Force startup pitch day event in California, he revealed the cost to be around $2 million per Starship flight, should the final goal be to set-up a “self-sustaining city on Mars.” He estimated that we will need to build and fly around 1,000 Starships to transport cargo, infrastructure, and crew to Mars over the course of 20 years. This is because planetary alignment only allows realistically achievable Mars flight once every two years which is a very small window.
Musk went further to address more details about the Starship, including its payload capacity for Earth’s orbital transportation. The ship will be designed for maximum re-use and Musk noted that ideally, it can fly up to 3 times per day. That adds up to more than 1,000 flights per year per Starship. Now, if Space X manages to build as many Starship as they currently have build Falcon rockets (around 100), and transport as much as 100 tons into orbit, we will be able to put 10 million tons of orbit per year.
But before we set up a permanent, sustainable city on Mars, we first have to get a crew there, which is another challenge. NASA has set 2024 as its goal for that milestone while SpaceX aims to land Starship there as early as 2022. In the past Musk also talked about crewed Mars mission as early as 2024, but it seems highly aspirational. But this might be the first step towards making humans an interplanetary species.
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