Elon Musk yesterday revealed an ambitious scheme to regularly shuttle passengers like you and me to Mars on spaceships powered by reusable boosters and solar panels traveling at upwards of 62,000 mph starting in 2024.
“Each of the SpaceX vehicles would take 100 passengers … with trips planned every 26 months, when Earth and Mars pass close to each other. Tickets per person might cost $500,000 at first, and drop to about a third of that later on,” reports Kenneth Chang for the New York Times. “To establish a self-sustaining Mars civilization of a million people would take 10,000 flights, with many more to ferry equipment and supplies.”
That would take us to about 2060.
A 4:21 animation of the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System posted to YouTube yesterday already had more than 1.2 million views and nearly 6,000 comments early this morning.
“What you saw [in the animation] is very close to what we’ll actually build,” Musk said during his appearance at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Bloomberg live streamed Musk’s 90-minute presentation; 81,000 people have viewed at least part of it. As is par for the course, the video has attracted some inane comments. But that behavior is moving to F2F, too, it appears.
“During the Q&A session after Musk's presentation, a number of not-so-serious crowd members used valuable mic time to either not ask a question, ask a dumb one, or try and thrust onto Musk a personal gift or request,” as Nick Statt reports for The Verge.
Musk, meanwhile, was adamant about “Making Humans an Interplanetary Species,” as his presentation was titled. “This is not about everyone moving to Mars, this is about becoming multiplanetary,” Musk said. “This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure,” Nadia Drake reports for National Geographic.
And it’s also the only practical alternative to oblivion, as he tells Ron Howard during an interview for National Geographic Channel’s MARS, a series that premieres Nov. 14, Drake informs us.
“The future of humanity is fundamentally going to bifurcate along one of two directions: Either we’re going to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, or we’re going be stuck on one planet until some eventual extinction event,” Musk said.
“Buried in [Musk’s] announcement were a host of fascinatingly specific details stripped straight from sci-fi novels,” writes Trevor Hughes for USA Today.
“Getting yourself to Mars could take just 30 days, once the system is optimized for frequent use,” for instance, and “he envisions a spacecraft in which people will play 0-g games, watch movies and attend lectures as they whip through space.” Also, “he repeatedly mentioned how moving people to Mars would require everything from steel foundries to pizza restaurants.”
We can only hope they will be New York style.
But now that we’ve captured your imaginations, let’s briefly return to earth.
“The grand plan laid out by Mr. Musk lacked specific funding projections, operational specifics or signoff by government officials, emboldening critics who already have called it a science-fiction dream,” observes Andy Pasztor for the Wall Street Journal.
“In the end, the project likely ‘is going to be a huge public-private partnership,’ Mr. Musk said” — which Pasztor suggests “portends a space policy debate unlike any that has played out across the U.S. — or for that matter, in the capitals of other space-faring nations. The focus is shifting to whether such entrepreneurial initiatives, or a combination of private-public funding, are best suited to further deep space exploration.”
Meanwhile, Amazon is building its own terrestrial delivery system to compete directly with UPS and FedEx, as Greg Bensinger and Laura Stevens detail in the Wall Street Journal today. Have you any doubt that it will be offering a version of Prime shipping to Mars accompanied by finely personalized “only two shopping months to Christmas” pop-up promotions?