Elon Musk Details His Plan to Colonize Mars
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"In my view, publishing this paper provides not only an opportunity for the spacefaring community to read the SpaceX vision in print with all the charts in context, but also serves as a valuable archival reference for future studies and planning," New Space editor-in-chief (and former NASA "Mars czar") Scott Hubbard wrote in a statement.
The booster, with its 42 Raptors, will be the most powerful rocket in history, by far. It will be capable of launching 300 metric tons (330 tons) to low Earth orbit (LEO), or 550 metric tons (600 tons) in an expendable variant, Musk said. For comparison, NASA's famous Saturn V moon rocket, the current record holder, could loft "just" 135 metric tons (150 tons).
The ITS boosters will launch many spaceships and fuel tankers (which will top up the spaceships' tanks) to orbit over the course of their operational lives; the rockets will be designed to fly about 1,000 times each, Musk wrote. The spaceships, meanwhile, will hang out in orbit, and then depart en masse when Earth and Mars align favorably. This happens once every 26 months.
Eventually, Musk wrote, he envisions 1,000 or more ITS spaceships, each carrying 100 or more people, leaving Earth orbit during each of these Mars windows. The architecture could conceivably get 1 million people to Mars within the next 50 to 100 years, he has said.
The ships would also fly back from Mars, using their nine Raptor engines and methane-based propellant that was manufactured on the Red Planet. Each ITS ship would probably be able to make 12 to 15 deep-space journeys during its operational life, Musk wrote, and each fuel tanker could likely fly to Earth orbit 100 or so times.
ITS spaceships could begin flying to Mars about 10 years from now, if everything goes well, Musk added. But he acknowledged that success is far from guaranteed.
"There is a huge amount of risk. It is going to cost a lot," Musk wrote. "There is a good chance we will not succeed, but we are going to do our best and try to make as much progress as possible."
And SpaceX has a history of overcoming long odds. When Musk founded the company in 2002, he wrote, "I thought we had maybe a 10 percent chance of doing anything — of even getting a rocket to orbit, let alone getting beyond that and taking Mars seriously."
June 15, 2017
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