Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla, has outlined SpaceX’s ambitious plans to send people to Mars as early as 2024. Speaking at the 2016 Recode Conference, he explained he intends to start regular cargo runs to Mars using the second version of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft in 2018. The Dragon V2 is able to make soft terrestrial landings using jets and can also carry people. Musk called it a “general science delivery platform for any place in the solar system”.
After the first Mars mission in 2018, SpaceX will attempt regular cargo runs every 26 months to Mars, establishing a steady supply chain that people can count on. Mars and Earth’s orbits are closest every 26 months.
“What really matters is to transport people and cargo,” said Musk. “This is what’s necessary to create a self-sustaining, growing city on Mars.”
“What SpaceX is trying to do is establish the environment for entrepreneurs on Mars to flourish,” Musk said later.
After recent successful rocket launches and booster landings on a barge at sea using the Falcon 9, SpaceX appears to have the best chance of executing a successful human Mars mission.
SpaceX is developing a larger rocket, the Falcon Heavy, to take spacecraft to Mars. They hope to launch the first version of the Falcon Heavy later this year. The Falcon Heavy is more powerful than the Saturn V rockets used to send men to the moon, and will launch from the same launch pad as the Apollo 11 missions.
While the first human mission would launch in 2024, the spacecraft won’t arrive at Mars until 2025.
Musk believes Mars would be a great place to die. “It’s not a death wish,” he emphasised, but, “if you’re going to choose a place to die, then Mars is not a bad choice.”
You can watch the full interview with Elon Musk above. It’s a fascinating discussion that also covers his plans for the Tesla Model 3, his fears regarding AI, a belief that we may all be living in a computer generated simulation, and much more.
What about NASA’s human Mars plans?
Currently, NASA is busy developing technology to send humans to Mars in the 2030s using the Orion spacecraft, so may be late to the game if Elon Musk and SpaceX are successful.