Life on Mars

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One of the 8-foot 3-D images of the landscape of Mars from xRez Studio.

5:33pm

Elon Musk, founder of Hawthorne-based aerospace company SpaceX, outlined his vision today for the colonization of Mars using a fleet of reusable spacecraft carrying 100 to 200 people at a time to the red planet, with initial flights possible in about a decade.

Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, Musk showed a video simulation of a Mars trip, with the journey aided by tanker spaceships that would be used to refuel the cargo- and people-carrying crafts in space to propel them on their way.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to complete the first development spaceship in
about four years,” Musk said during his talk, which was titled, ‘Making
Humans a Multiplanetary Species.’

Musk was somewhat vague on the timing of actually sending people to Mars. “If things go super-well, it might be kind of in a 10-year time frame,
but … I don’t want to say that’s when it will occur,” he said. “It’s like
this huge amount of risk. It’s going to cost a lot. … We’re going to do our
best and try to make as much progress as possible.”

He said he hopes to launch a Dragon 2 rocket to Mars in a couple years,
and then continue to do so regularly every two years during the appropriate
launch window to reach the planet — “like a train leaving the station.”

He estimated the ultimate cost of a trip to Mars at about $200,000. He
said the initial design would allow for about 100 passengers, along with plenty
of cargo space to transport equipment for building a fuel-production facility
on Mars — in addition to luggage and materials for building structures. The
trip would take roughly six months.

The rockets could ultimately be expanded to carry about 200 people. He
noted during his presentation that if the ideal colony is about 1 million
people, it would require 10,000 trips by rockets carrying just 100 people.

Still unclear about the effort is the overall multibillion-dollar cost
of developing the necessary equipment, and where the money will come from.

  • from CNS
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