SpaceX is almost ready to start building a permanent human settlement on Mars with the massive Rockship Rocket.
The private spaceflight company is on track to launch its first undeveloped mission to Mars in almost four years from now, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said Friday (October 16) at the International Mars Society Convention.
“I think we have a fighting opportunity to make the second window of Mars’ transition,” Musk said in a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. You can watch a replay of the conversation here.
The window Musk specified is a launch opportunity that will appear every 26 months for the mission to Mars. NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched missions in March of July this year. The next window will open in 2022 with Musk pointing to the 2024 Mars launch opportunity.
The mission will be launched on Red Planet in a SpaceX Starship, an available rocket-and-spacecraft combo currently under development at the company’s South Texas facility. SpaceX also plans to use Starship for moon missions starting in 2022, as well as point-to-point journeys across Earth.
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Musk has long said that humans need to establish a permanent and maintain presence on Mars to ensure that “the continuity of consciousness we know it” – in case planet Earth is left uninhabited by something like a nuclear war or an asteroid strike.
But SpaceX does not have any plans to actually build a Mars base. As a transportation company, its sole purpose is to ferry cargo (and people) to and from the Red Planet, facilitating the development of another human base on Mars.
“SpaceX takes on the biggest single challenge, which is the transportation system. There are all the other systems that will be needed,” Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin said during the convention.
“My personal hope is that we will see Starship in the stratosphere before this year, and if Elon is right, reach orbit next year or next year,” Zubrin added. “It will change people’s thinking about what is possible. And then, you know, we will have NASA looking to fund the remaining puzzle pieces or entrepreneurs moving forward to develop the remaining puzzle pieces. . “
If Musk’s visions are correct – he is known for offering extremely ambitious timelines – SpaceX’s first mission to Mars will be launched in the same year that NASA astronauts return to the moon under the Artemis program . SpaceX also plans to send space tourists on a Starship mission around the moon in 2023. NASA has also selected SpaceX as one of three commercial teams to develop the coming months for the Artemis program.
Musk said on Friday that if not for the orbital mechanics calling for Mars launched every 26 months, SpaceX “could have a shot of sending or attempting to send something to Mars in three years,” he said. Musk, added that Earth and Mars would not be in the best position. “But the windows are four years away, because of them in different parts of the solar system.”
Musk unveiled plans for SpaceX’s StarsX plans in 2016. The project aims to launch a 165-foot (50-meter) spacecraft over a massive booster for missions in the depths of the moon, Mars and if where else. Both Starship and its Super Heavy booster are available.
This year, SpaceX launched two test flights of the Starship prototypes, called SN5 and SN6, from the Boca Chica test site in Texas. Those flights reached a height of 500 feet (150 meters).
SpaceX is currently preparing another Starship prototype, called the SN8, for a 12-mile-high (20-kilometer) test flight in the near future.
Email Hanneke Weitering to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.