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article imageElon Musk's ambitious vision for the future of Mars Colonization

By Karen Graham     Sep 27, 2016 in Science
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, speaking to a rapt audience at the 67th International Astronautical Congress today in Guadalajara, Mexico, finally told the world about his company's long-anticipated plans to colonize Mars.
According to Musk, once SpaceX starts launching its Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) rockets to Mars, it will take “40 to 100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilisation” on the Red Planet, according to Wired. He figures it would take that long to build a population of about one million people.
The audience was almost rabid in their interest, and the presentation took a good hour. Then there were all the quite frankly, quirky and even bizarre questions that followed, but The Verge has been nice enough to trim down the presentation to a good five-minute long video that can be seen above.
Elon Musk
Of course, it's no secret that SpaceX is focused on interplanetary travel, and Musk has kept the world in the loop about the wonders of space travel and spacecraft for several years now, so the details of his plans have been anticipated with the same degree of interest and enthusiasm as we give every rocket launch that SpaceX makes. It's nice to be excited about space again.
The vision according to Musk
Picture it, a huge carbon-fiber interplanetary spaceship with a 300-foot tall booster rocket capable of 13,000 tonnes of thrust, propelled by 42 Raptor rocket engines using cryogenic methane as fuel, blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center one day in the not-so-faraway future, on a trip to Mars.
The booster rockets would return to Earth to be used again, this time carrying "tanker' spacecraft that would refuel the initial space vehicles already launched, sending them on their way to the Red Planet. Musk is talking about rockets that are twice as powerful as the Saturn 5 boosters that sent our astronauts to the moon.
Musk envisions 1,000 of these huge spaceships, just orbiting around at any one time, “kind of like Battlestar Galactica...good show”. As for passengers, he says they will initially start with about 100 crew members, and that number will likely rise to 200 or maybe more.
The vision sees the spacecraft lasting about 30 years and getting two flights to Mars each, so we will need a large number of them, and they will eventually have to be larger because “if we’re going to have iron foundries and pizza joints on Mars, we need to carry a lot of cargo," said Musk.
Musk has done his math, too. He estimates that if the crew is kept at 100 people, it would take 10,000 trips to populate Mars with one million colonists. Based on time limitations, Musk says it would take 40 to 100 years to get one million colonists settled on Mars.
Elon Musk
Certain technologies and funding need to be in place
Before anything can be done to fulfill the dream, four improvements in space travel need to be in place. The first, fully reusable booster rockets, and SpaceX is working on this now, safe refilling in orbit, a propellant plant on Mars, and the right propellant. This is where any and all would-be rocket scientists need to be putting on their thinking caps.
Pricing, for individuals wanting to head to Mars, and the cost of developing the project itself is going to open a global debate on whether entrepreneurial initiatives or a combination of private-public funding would be the best way to finance this sort of initiative. As for fares, Musk wants to see the price eventually drop to the cost of a nice, comfortable and inexpensive house, or about $200,000.
And lastly, the Wall Street Journal reminds us that big-brother NASA is taking any Mars missions at a slower pace, not wanting to take the risks that SpaceX is taking. And there is nothing wrong with this way of thinking. NASA is also working to develop the same technologies that SpaceX is working on, and regardless of what anyone thinks, the two need each other.
More about elon musk, Mars Mission, Colonization, NASA, Spacex
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