Elon Musk has revealed his plans for humanity to colonize Mars through an Interplanetary Transport System designed and built by SpaceX
At a press conference at the International Astronautical Federation in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk explained his desire to make humans a multi-planetary species, "make Mars possible within our lifetimes," and a possibility for "anyone who wants to go."
Musk described Mars as our "one option" to become an multi-planetary species due to its plentiful sunlight and the potential for humans to warm up the planet through a process of terraforming, in order to make it habitable.
Musk said "the probability of creating a self-sustaining civilisation is high" if the cost of traveling to Mars because equal to buying a house on Earth. Around $200,000, which could eventually drop to $100,000, he said. Sponsorship and the necessary labour-needs would make this a viable proposition, the SpaceX CEO added.
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Ahead of the announcement, Space X had revealed a teaser video (below) outlining the process, which would involve refueling a solar-harnessing spaceship in orbit and traveling to the red planet at speeds upwards of 100,000km/h.
As part of the "fully reusable system," Musk described refueling in orbit as an essential part of keeping the costs down, claiming ticket costs would increase by 500% otherwise.
Likewise, propellant would need to be created on Mars for the return journey to Earth, with SpaceX deciding on methane as the most efficient fuel source.
"We think methane is better across the board," he said.
Musk says the four tenets of full reusability, refueling in orbit, the ability to create propellant on Mars and creating the right propellant are essential whether it's SpaceX or another company attempting the same mission.
Later in the conference, Musk said the Mars fleet would depart en masse, "like Battlestar Galactica," with up to 15 round trips possible in a 30-year life-cycle of the ships.
Each ship would carry at least 100 people initially, Musk said, but they could get larger over time given needs to bring a Mars colony up to a million people within 40-100 years. Musk spoke of building up to 1,000 ships to speed up the process.
In terms of funding, Musk plans on good old fashioned capitalism, through SpaceX profits, private investment and government funding.
Musk said: "As we show this dream can be made real I'm sure support will snowball over time. I'm personally accumulating assets in order to fund this and make the biggest contribution I can to making life multi-planetary."
In terms of timelines Musk admited he "isn't the best at this sort of thing." He said the first spaceship could be built and tested in orbit within four years, while the booster could be built relatively quickly as its a scaling up of the current Falcon 9 solution.
Musk says he plans to start transporting materials to the surface of Mars through its Dragon missions within the next couple of years and, if everything goes as smoothly as possible, real progress towards goals outlined today could be made within a decade.
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