A new vision Human colonies on Mars could be built within our lifetime, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Musk has published the outline for the project in the academic journal New Space. In the study, Musk explored the planetary options for expanding to a space-bearing civilization and described the advantages Mars offers.
” There really is a way that anyone could go if they wanted to,” he says. The main obstacle, Musk argues, is the high cost of transporting people to the red planet. Using traditional methods like the approach that was used to send men to the moon in 1969, he estimates that it would cost about $10 billion per ticket.”
He provided a comprehensive review of a system architecture required for a rocket and spaceship capable of transporting people and supplies to Mars, comparing possible vehicle designs and performance features.
“If we can get the cost of moving to Mars to be roughly equivalent to a median house price in the United States, which is around $200,000, then I think the probability of establishing a self-sustaining civilization is very high,” Musk writes. “I think it would almost certainly occur.” Musk says the system won’t be ready for at least another decade.
To achieve this spaceships must be fully reusable, they should be able to refuel in orbit, and then once again on Mars with fuel that is yielded from production plants built on the planet. Musk states that methane is the ideal propellant because the technical challenges to harvest it on Mars are significantly easier than substances like hydrogen, which he says is too expensive. A table in Musk’s paper shows estimates that ships departing from Earth will take an average of 115 days to get to Mars once initial test flights begin in 2020. And the trip will be highly entertaining.
“It has got to be really fun and exciting — it cannot feel cramped or boring,” Musk writes. “Therefore, the crew compartment or the occupant compartment is set up so that you can do zero-gravity games — you can float around. There will be movies, lecture halls, cabins, and a restaurant. It will be really fun to go. You are going to have a great time!”
“In general, Mars is far better-suited ultimately to scale up to be a self-sustaining civilization,” Musk says.