Late last night, Elon Musk addressed attendees at the International Astronautical Congress and outlined his plans for Mars colonisation. He believes that Space X can get human boots on Mars by 2022, reduce costs to as little as $100,000 per person to travel to the red planet before long, and by the 2060s, have over a million people living there.
No one would ever have accused Elon Musk of thinking small. Along with his attempts to revolutionise electric cars, to new power storage mediums and solar cells and space travel, he has always aimed high. But with the likes of NASA not projecting humans to reach Mars until the 2030s, Musk's latest plan is his most ambitious yet.[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qo78R_yYFA']
As it stands, no humans have gone further than the Moon in the history of our space programmes and no one has even been beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) since the 1970s. So how does Musk plan to get people to Mars in such a short time span?
With a new rocket of course. Known affectionately as the Heart of Gold, the launch system would have a new first stage, atop which would sit an the interplanetary module. It would carry as many as 100 people, so would be rather a hefty thing and would require refuelling in LEO, before heading off on its journey to the red planet.
Theoretically Musk said, such a rocket would be capable of going much further. With a full tank there was no reason to say it couldn't also travel to Saturn's moons like Enceladus. Return journeys could be handled by on-ground refueling stations on Mars, Musk said.[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1YxNYiyALg']
As it stands though, all of this is ungodly expensive. Musk estimated that the current price for sending just one person to Mars, would be around $10 billion, so getting that cost down was paramount. That's where the reusability of the spacecraft comes in, but initial funding will be hefty. Although a little Vague Musk said that satellite launches and sending cargo to the ISS would help fund its development, but $10 billion or even multiples of that, is money even Musk would struggle to find.
He did jokingly say though that there was a plan to steal underpants to make it happen. We're presuming there's a few question marks between that point and profit, but if anyone can figure it out it's Musk.
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KitGuru Says: While this plan might sound rather far fetched, at least in the near future, it wouldn't have been that long ago that we'd have all said landing a first stage booster after separation was near impossible, but it's happened a bunch of times now. I'll believe it when I saw more development, but I'm cautiously excited to think we'll see humans on Mars within the next few years.