Elon Musk is a man with a dream: to colonise Mars by the year 2024 and make humans a multi-planet species.
It’s a pretty bold vision and one which was initially outlined during a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). The plan is to send two cargo ships to Mars by the year 2022 followed by a further four ships containing human settlers and cargo two years later in 2024.
A bold vision, to say the least, there are still plenty of issues to iron out before anyone will be heading off to the Red Planet just yet though. Thankfully, Musk has made time to answer some pretty important questions on the topic as part of a Reddit AMA on the very topic.
What are the plans for the BFR?
SpaceX has already debuted plans for the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) which will not only send settlers to Mars but could also offer trips to other interplanetary destinations and suborbital trips to anywhere on Earth in an hour or less. One of the most popular questions was how do SpaceX plan to scaling it up the BFR from the prototype model?
According to Musk, scaling up the engine is the easy part; it’s making it safe and reliable that is the trickier aspect. “The objective is to meet or exceed passenger airline levels of safety,” he said. “That will be especially important for point to point journeys on Earth. The advantage of getting somewhere in 30 mins by rocket instead of 15 hours by plane will be negatively affected if ‘but also, you might die’ is on the ticket.”
How much food and water will be sent to Mars?
How much infrastructure, food, and water would be on offer to anyone heading to Mars in 2024? “Our goal is to get you there and ensure the basic infrastructure for propellant production and survival is in place,” Musk said. “A rough analogy is that we are trying to build the equivalent of the transcontinental railway. A vast amount of industry will need to be built on Mars by many other companies and millions of people.”
How will people breathe on Mars?
According to Musk, SpaceX is already “pretty far along” in the development of a processing plant for making oxygen and methane fuel for use on Mars. “It’s a key part of the whole system,” he added.
How will the BFR be tested?
According to MUsk, SpaceX “will be starting with a full-scale Ship doing short hops of a few hundred kilometers altitude and lateral distance.” That will be followed up with orbital-scale flights and then tests of the complete BFR including its booster.
Would BFR’s Engines Be 3D Printed?
An apparent bone of contention for some, Musk revealed that some parts of the engine would be printed and that SpaceX had developed a special alloy for the task to space travel. “Some parts of the Raptor will be printed, but most of it will be machined forgings,’ Musk wrote. “We developed a new metal alloy for the oxygen pump that has both high strength at temperature at won’t burn. Pretty much anything will burn in high pressure, hot, almost pure oxygen.”
Will passengers be protected from radiation?
Radiation shielding is a bone of content for some, who reckon the health affects will put some off space travel. “Just need a solar storm shelter, which is a small part of the ship,” Musk wrote adding, to help ease any concerns, that “Buzz Aldrin is 87.”
What will the BFR Look Like?
Musk revealed that the BFR would differ significantly from the standard NASA space shuttle; it won’t have wings and won’t glide through space. “Tails are lame,” Musk added.
Would there be internet on Mars?
Or more specifically, would there be any communication link between Earth and Mars?”If anyone wants to build a high bandwidth comm link to Mars, please do,” Musk quipped. He did note that at its shortest the distance from Earth to Mars is three light minutes, “so you could Snapchat, I suppose. If that’s a thing in the future.”