Elon Musk and the Mission to Mars
Last month, billionaire CEO of SpaceX and co-founder of Tesla Motors and SolarCity, Elon Musk, revealed a plan to start doing what a hundred science fiction novels have written about for decades—the colonization of Mars. He hopes to begin shuttling thousands of people between Earth and the red planet sometime within the next decade or so, and imagines that humanity will have its first self-sustaining Martian colony within the next 40-100 years. It’s pretty hard to comprehend; we may soon be an interplanetary species. You might live to see the day where people are classified as Earthian or Martian. How mindblowing is that!?
Why Mars? Why Now?
The big question is why. Why spend millions of dollars on a space quest to a big red rock when we’ve got so many problems to work out on our own planet? Well, the answer is in the question. According to Musk, “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.”
For me, this answer lies somewhere in the spectrum between extremely depressing and oddly inspiring. It’s time to start thinking about our future as a species, rather than as individual countries or continents. It’s hard to wrap your head around, but it’s extremely important we do so.
Initially, SpaceX gave us a glimpse of the mission to Mars via this futuristic video:
Here’s how it works:
- A spacecraft called the Interplanetary Transport System (3.5 times more powerful than the biggest rocket built to date by NASA) would deliver a crew of astronauts out to Earth’s orbit, where the booster would detach and steer itself back to land on the launch pad.
- The booster would then pick up a fuel tanker and carry that into orbit where it would fuel the spaceship for its journey to Mars.
- Once en route, the spaceship would deploy solar panels to harvest energy from the sun and conserve valuable propellant for the landing on Mars. Musk envisions entire fleets of these colonial capsules will remain in Earth’s orbit until a planetary alignment brings the two planets close together (which happens every 26 months). In that way, we can colonize Mars en masse. Hooray for mass colonization!
- Once there, that’s when the fun begins. And by fun, I mean intense labour. I’m talking exploring, building structures, and digging up buried ice to be used for water and to make cryo-methane propellant that will power everything!
Musk gave us a few more interesting tidbits in his Reddit AMA yesterday as well. Here are some of the best ones:
- Before we send any people, we will send the SpaceX Red Dragon capsule without a crew, so as to scout out the planet and test the landing technology.
- After that, a spaceship called the Heart of Gold will fly to Mars with equipment required for a Mars-based propellant plant (like a Martian gas station) that the first crews would have to build.
- The ITS would be powerful enough to travel back to Earth after landing on Mars at any point during Earth and Mars’ orbits. This is obviously helpful for emergencies or situations where a mission to or from Mars may be necessary for survival.
There’s obviously a ton of other fantastically far-out information from the AMA to check out, but be forewarned: the techno-jargon is strong with this one! You can click here to view all the questions from the Reddit AMA or for a full look at Elon Musk’s presentation of the mission last month you can watch the video below. See you in space!
Candice Irvine, Blogger, Marketing Specialist, Graphic Designer
I'm addicted to games of all kinds: boardgames, video games, card games, mind games... nah, just kidding about that last one. Or am I?