The 46-year-old South African-born founder and CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, was listed by Forbes as one of the most powerful people in the world, and with a 13.9 billion dollar net worth, it is easy to see why. So when Elon Musk comes up with a vision for colonizing Mars with humans and “making life multi-planetary”, people actually take notice and listen to him. His companies like SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX seemed to have given Musk the path to be able to achieve that specific goal.
Musk unveiled his grand plan in 2016, explaining his SpaceX vision to populate the red planet with humans because he believes we must become a multi-planet species to survive. A year later, Musk is still working out the kinks and specifics of his latest plans for beyond Earth. We have all seen the advancements that SpaceX has made over the past years, making aerospace history with the successful launching and landing of used rockets. As crazy and as far-fetched as it may seem, if anyone can get us to Mars and hopefully back, Elon Musk is probably the guy with the ways and means to do it. He also believes that many years from now the cost of space travel to Mars might only be a mere $200,000. Around the median price of a house in the United States today. Wow, this really creates a dilemma. What to do? Go to Mars for vacation or buy a house?
15. Earth’s A Gonner
Musk does not have a prophecy that doomsday is around the corner and coming soon, but he has stated his belief quite adamantly that we can’t stay on our beloved planet Earth forever. He feels there will be some eventual extinction event that takes place on earth, so what’s left but to hit the space superhighway and get out of Dodge. He wants us all to agree that the direction we need to take is to become a space-bearing race. He wants to create a self-sustaining city, not just an outpost, which will literally be its own planet. I guess like the eventually extinct hermit crabs, we will just take our homes with us everywhere we go. Wow, that’s pretty convenient.
14. Mars Is The Next Best Place To Be
Musk feels our options are limited within our solar system so Mars is the best choice. Earth and Mars are similar in many ways. The day lengths are about the same and it does have some sunlight. It’s a bit cold, but if we warm it up just a bit we can possibly make liquid oceans and a thicker atmosphere. Its atmosphere is mostly CO2, so just by compressing the air plants can grow. Lifting heavy objects would be much easier to do on Mars too because its gravity is about 37% of that of Earth’s. The moons of Saturn and Jupiter are way too far from the sun and us, and Venus is just a big hot acid bath, so Mars is a dream compared to our other options.
13. He’s Going To Start Building The First Spaceship Next Year
In just a few months time, construction of the ‘BFR’ will begin in early 2018. Formally known as SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) Musk gave it a new name, the BFR standing for Big F–king Rocket (seriously). His optimistic projected launch time is for it to happen in about five years and his goal is by 2024 to have flown to Mars at least four times. He is also very anxious to get this project off the ground (pun intended) because this spacecraft will also be able to travel around Earth from any place in as little as an hour.
12. His New System Will Replace All Of SpaceX’s Other Vehicles
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets and it’s next-generation bigger brother Falcon Heavy, will no longer get any of the company’s resources poured into them for improvements. These heavy-lift launch vehicles with their two stages will now be put on the back burner. Instead, all effort, time and money will go into building the new BFR spacecraft. The proven track record of the Falcon 9 series, with a 42 out of 44 primary mission success rate, is really quite an achievement. The people who have built it and have made it the successful series that it has become will now focus their know-how on getting to us to Mars.
11. Satellite Launches & ISS Transports First
SpaceX makes their money from a large and very diverse group of customers. Some of the many different types of launch missions include working with the United States government for national security purposes, science missions and resupplying the International Space Station (ISS). Just recently the Dragon capsule on top of Falcon 9 rocket brought a whopping 6,400 lbs. of supplies to the ISS. A Supercomputer called the Spaceborne Computer from Hewlett Packard was sent to the space station to test how computers hold up in space. Also, a variety of items needed by the astronauts, such as toilet paper, fresh socks, tortillas and even Picante sauce have been delivered there.
10. The Moon Will Be A Stepping Stone To Mars
Private citizens have already paid SpaceX deposits, and significant is the word floating around to best describe the amount, to go on a trip around the moon in the Falcon Heavy. It will be about a week-long journey, taking two or three days to just get to the moon which is around 230,000 plus miles away. SpaceX says that passengers will spend most of the trip just looking out the windows and sightseeing because the spacecraft will be pretty much automated. One midcourse adjustment will have to be made to keep it headed in the right direction, but if anything happens, the crew will be trained to do some flight operations manually.
9. His Current Business Ventures Are Going To Fund It
Commercial satellite launch missions pay off big time for SpaceX and it will only keep getting better for them in the future. For example, NASA pay Roscosmos, a Russian space agency, about $81 million dollars for a round-trip ticket to the ISS in a Soyuz capsule. If NASA buys in bulk (that’s five seats) they can save some money and pay $74.7 million per seat. SpaceX is now working with NASA to take a big piece of the Roscosmos pie. By landing the rocket back on Earth for reuse, which no one else has done yet, SpaceX has set the bar pretty high.
8. The ‘BFR’ Rocket Will Be The Biggest & Best One Yet
Already the US has space dominance over other countries, thanks to SpaceX’s reusable rockets. Now Elon Musk claims that the BFR will cost less to launch than the Falcon 1 did. At $7 million, this means the BFR will launch 150 tons of payload at around a $50 per pound launch cost. Watch out USPS! The BFR will not have just three but will have four landing legs for greater stability in rough terrain. Raptor rocket engine technology uses methalox as fuel. This is good news for Mars travel because Methane can be refined on Mars so it just makes perfect sense for Musk’s long-term goal to colonize Mars by the mid-2020’s.
7. NASA Will Back The SpaceX BFR To Mars
Since 2012 SpaceX has assisting NASA in transporting supplies to the International Space Station. Now NASA will reciprocate with $30 million dollars in support to be spent on EDL (Entry, Descent & Landing) data. NASA will do this for the first scheduled launch only. Real-time data will be gathered by orbiters just in case the “L” part the of BFR doesn’t go as planned. SpaceX will set what the payload will be, but NASA wants some things to be included, like weather sensors and atmospheric dust analyzing instruments. There will be on board videos to capture the plumes during descent, but that’s only if the “L” part is successful.
6. The Trip To Mars Will Only Take 80 Days
Musk claims that the BFR’s powerful Raptor engines will make a trip to Mars possible in as little as 80 days. That’s pretty fast by today’s standards, which are six to nine months to get there. The first spacecraft to ever make it to Mars was in 1965 and it took 228 days. The next time it only took 156 days, and the Mariner 7 only took 131 days and that was still back in 1960’s. Many factors dictate how long the trip to Mars takes. The time just really depends on things such as launch speed, Earth/Mars alignment, and fuel amounts. You can have a much shorter time travel if you’re willing to burn the fuel to get there.
5. Earth Syncs With Mars Every Two Years For Timely Travel
From moment to moment the distance from Earth to Mars changes. An opposition is when the planets line up on the same side of the sun and they are the closest together at that point. Approximately every two years this happens and that’s the perfect time to take off for the Red Planet. On July 27, 2018, Mars will only be a mere 35.8 million miles from Earth so this will be the perfect time for a launch. If SpaceX misses that time frame, they will have to wait until Oct. 13, 2020, to try again. But this time they will have to travel just over 38 million miles to get there.
4. Propellant Production Can Be Done On Mars
We better be able to make the fuel on Mars to get back to Earth because bringing the fuel with us is not practical due to its weight, mass and risk factor. Producing it there would also cut the costs of the trip significantly. Switching the kerosene/liquid oxygen blend that the Falcon 9 uses today, to a methane-based fuel is the clear-cut choice for Musk. Since the Mars atmosphere is plentiful with carbon dioxide, and there is an unlimited supply of icy water reserves on the planet, methane can be made. Using big solar panels to generate an energy source can make it happen.
3. First Crewed Mars Rockets Scheduled For 2024
If SpaceX has its way, a robotic mission to Mars by 2020 and then a crewed mission by 2024 is their timeline goal. This is a much faster track than NASA is on, with their objective being by the 2030s to send humans there. By 2022 SpaceX wants to have already landed two cargo missions. The two cargo ships would contain life support and mining systems to be used for future flights. The 2024 mission’s goal would be to send four vehicles, two with crew members and two with the cargo, to scout out Mars’s best spots to find water and build a propellant plant.
2. Build A Mars Base To Prepare For Expansion
Just like a train leaving the station, a steady flow of flights leaving for Mars would be the norm. The BFR’s schedule of every two years is just the start to colonizing Mars. Every trip to Mars will also include around two or three tons of useful supply payload to aid with the expansion. At a cost of between $100,000 to $200,000 per person Musk sees “settlers terraforming Mars and making it a really nice place to be”. Sorry but all I can envision is the scene from Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s eyes are popping out of his head from breathing the Martian air.
1. Small Steps Equal One Giant Leap
Musk has never hidden the fact that all the little steps that SpaceX makes are just stepping stones to his most ambitious long-term goal: saving humanity. By sending us to Mars and perhaps beyond, we will become a multi-planetary species. Like Star Trek states, “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization, to boldly go where no one has gone before”. The design of the Dragon 2 as a propulsive lander, able to land on any liquid or solid surface, will make it possible to go anywhere in the solar system. I guess we can say bye-bye to our runways and parachutes.
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