Musk: Manned Mars Mission By 2024
Elon Musk says his SpaceX company is developing a new booster system that will launch a cargo mission to Mars by 2022, followed by manned missions in 2024. Moreover, the new system, which he calls the BFR, will be capable of re-entry and reuse, making hypersonic passenger service between cities on earth practical and affordable.
Musk announced these aggressive plans at the International Astronautical Conference in Adelaide, Australia, this week. Although he failed to present any financials, Musk told attendees that he has a workable business plan to make both Mars and terrestrial hypersonic travel a reality.
The core component of these plans is a new booster system that’s smaller than the one he announced at a conference in Mexico last year, but still larger than the Saturn V system that put astronauts on the moon in 1969. Musk called the booster the BFR, with “B” signifying big and “R” for rocket. The “F” was left to the imagination of attendees.
According to news reports from the conference, the system would lift a spacecraft with 40 cabins populated by two or three people each for a total of about 100 per flight. The booster would be reusable while the capsule would refuel in orbit and continue to Mars.
Because of its smaller size, Musk said, the BFR could replace SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster as a satellite launcher. It could also serve as a launcher for hypersonic travel between cities on earth for prices similar to full fares on current airliners. No point on earth would be more than an hour away, according to Musk.
Musk said SpaceX is already developing and manufacturing components for a Mars system and envisions a cargo launch as early as 2022. “That’s not a typo, although it is aspirational. Five years feels like a long time to me,” Musk was quoted as telling the conference. When Earth and Mars approach their closest two years later in 2024, SpaceX would launch four more BFR-based missions aimed at establishing a permanent human presence on Mars.
Lockheed Martin presented its own rather more modest Mars program at the Adelaide conference. It would launch a mission to Mars in 2028 with a six-person crew. But the mission would not land astronauts, but would orbit them for a year before returning them to earth. The mission would be entirely scientific, launching and controlling robotic systems on the surface from orbit. Lockheed Martin is also developing the so-called Deep Space Gateway, a prototype habitat that could be used on Mars or the moon.