Tech billionaire and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is hatching an ambitious plan to eventually colonize Mars, possibly with thousands of people almost en masse, in order to protect humanity as a species in case certain doom finally arrives in the far future.
On Tuesday afternoon (September 27, 2016), Musk delivered a keynote talk at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, and unveiled his ambitious plans to establish a human colony on the red planet. He also showed a clip video of his new Interplanetary Transport System (ITS).
Though not yet finalized the first spaceship in this project will be named “Heart of Gold” in reference to the Douglas Adams spacecraft from the movie, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. SpaceX plans to build hundreds of these spacecraft, each one measuring 122 meters tall (400 feet) and 12 meters wide (39 feet).
The rocket booster alone will be around 12 meters in diameter. It is hoped that each rocket can eventually hold between 100 and 200 persons per trip so that the cost per person per flight is cheaper. The trip may take between 80 and 150 days to reach Mars depending on the available technology by then. It is hoped that as technology improves the travel time can be cut down to 30 days.
The spaceship will have a cargo hold that can hold up to 450 tons, good enough for the trip and for the colonists when they eventually land on Mars. SpaceX plans to make the Mars vehicle reusable (instead of having it dumped in the ocean after launching) and the spaceship can be refueled in orbit before its trip to Mars.
According to Musk, the reusability of the boosters and the refueling aspect makes the whole project much cheaper, and thus, more doable compared to other present and expensive space launch vehicles. Since the spaceships can’t bring enough propellant for the return trip (this will make the spaceship inefficient), the colonists would instead build a propellant plant on Mars so the spaceships can travel back to earth.
Video Courtesy of YouTube:
This is possible since the red planet has enough natural resources. And so, the trip works this way: First, the giant ITS spaceship will launch from a completely refurbished NASA Cape Canaveral in Florida from Launchpad 39A, the same one used by Apollo 11 to launch to the moon. The spaceship is powered by 42 Raptor rocket engines with 28.7 million pounds of thrust, 4 times more powerful than NASA’s present Saturn V rocket.
In space, the first-stage rocket booster detaches itself and deploys the manned spaceship into low-earth orbit. The booster heads back to earth and lands back at the launchpad, where a propellant tank is loaded on top, and the booster launches back into orbit. In orbit, the tanker refuels the spaceship. The tanker heads back and lands back at the launchpad. The refueled spaceship heads to Mars as it deploys its fan blade solar panels to provide 200,000 watts of power. When it arrives on Mars it makes a soft landing and deploys its passengers.