Anyone who’s paid any attention to SpaceX over the years knows that Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, has a slight obsession with Mars. Fortunately, that’s a great trait to have as a leader of one of the United States’ most influential commercial space companies.
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On Friday, Musk took the stage in Adelaide, Australia to discuss the company’s plans for Mars with a whole host of other space aficionados. His ambitious thinking could put uncrewed spacecraft on Mars by 2022, and crewed spacecraft could arrive there by 2024.
One of the greatest challenges besides safety has been the cost factor of sending a large spacecraft to Mars. Fortunately, Musk says he might have found a way to fund the endeavor.
"The most important thing... is that I think we have figured out how to pay for (BFR), which is to have a smaller vehicle, it's still pretty big, but one that can... do everything that's needed in the greater Earth orbit activity," Musk said
SpaceX plans to continue regular profitable space launches that will put satellites into orbit around the Earth and resupply the International Space Station with fresh food, experiments, and new astronauts on a regular basis.
Moreover, SpaceX plans to one day supply lunar-based science labs whenever we get around to building them. So far, the ESA wants to establish a base on the lunar surface while the United States and Russia want to collaborate to build a space station that orbits the Moon.
But if that wasn't enough, Musk also has yet another incredible idea to generate revenue. At some point, Space rockets could become a commercial transport system for ferrying people from one major city on one side of the planet to another on the other side in less than an hour.
"I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and launch in about five years," Musk added, explaining how all these monetizing resources would help pay for the new equipment and the expensive research and development behind it all.
The first ships to arrive at Mars would be uncrewed because it’s critical to establish a starting ground for the first human explorers. These uncrewed missions would be necessary for discovering a reliable water source, generating electrical power to energize life support systems, and delivering equipment for resource-gathering.
Once these autonomous or remote-controlled systems have some time to incubate in the Martian environment, we can begin adding humans to the equation.
You can watch the full presentation of what Musk had to say in the YouTube video below, which was published by SpaceX Friday morning:
It should be interesting to see how SpaceX’s plan to colonize Mars unfolds. After all, crewed Mars missions have been on Musk's to-do list for years. Even NASA shares similar goals, but the space agency foresees crewed Mars missions happening decades into the future; not years, as Musk estimates.
Regardless, Musk's words today are inspiring minds all around the world to push forward with these ambitious goals. Perhaps sooner, rather than later, we'll have astronauts walking on the red planet's surface for the first time in human history.