SEPTEMBER 28, 2016


SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site may some day be a departure point for flights to Mars, according to the company’s founder, Elon Musk, in a presentation Tuesday at the International Aeronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. Musk’s talk, which was streamed live online, laid out highly technical, detailed plans for development of a space vehicle capable of getting humans to the red planet in sufficient numbers to colonize it, build a city and create a self-sustaining civilization. His primary goal, and the sole reason he’s busy accumulating assets, is to do the best thing Musk can think of for humankind: make it an interplanetary species in order to ensure its survival, he said.
“What I really want to achieve here is to make Mars seem possible, something we can do in our lifetimes,” Musk said.
One of the biggest obstacles is making the per-passenger cost of a trip relatively affordable, he said. With the traditional approach that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon, a single ticket to Mars would cost about $10 billion, Musk said. “That is a steep price to pay for a ticket,” he said. “You can’t create a self-sustaining civilization if it’s $10 billion per person.” Musk said making the cost manageable means reducing it by 5 million percent, a goal he conceded may seem “virtually impossible,” though he thinks it’s achievable through cost-saving measures such as “full reusability” of spacecraft and the booster rockets that propel them into orbit; refueling in orbit, and production of rocket propellant on Mars.
Musk said the red planet has the necessary ingredients to produce cryogenic methane to power the Raptor engines that would allow the spacecraft, once on Mars, to blast off again for Earth. “Ultimately I suspect that you’d see Mars transit times as little as 30 days in the more distant future,” he said. “That’s fairly manageable, considering in the old days people used to routinely take sailing voyages of six months or more.”