Though NASA has the big budget and the proven track record, it’s plucky startup SpaceX that could beat everyone to the Red Planet. But founder Elon Musk already has his gaze set a little further out.
SpaceX is in the early phases of a plan to eventually put humans on Mars by as early as 2024, with test flights of its Dragon capsule scheduled for Mars in 2018. But how exactly will the company actually ferry humans (and eventually a lot of them) out into the stars? That’s what Musk is working on now, and it sounds like his proposed Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) could be just the ticket.
Little is actually known about the MCT, aside from the fact that SpaceX is presumably developing (or at least conceptualizing) a craft capable of carrying the equivalent of 100 tons of cargo, or 100 people, to Mars. Needless to say: That’s going to take a big ship, and it’s not going to be easy to get it up there. We don’t exactly know what Space X is cooking up to answer those questions, but Musk has teased that his MCT concept could be even more versatile than first thought — to the point where it could also take us to Mars and beyond.
As Wired reports, some details about the colonial transporter have trickled out, including claims that it might be powered by methane and use the company’s powerful new Raptor engine. Which makes sense, because something that big will need some push. It could also clock in at between 150 and 200 feet tall, presumably (though that's unconfirmed). So we’re talking about a legit spaceship here, folks.
As you can see from his tweets, Musk is already looking for a new naming nomenclature to fit the more ambitious goals for the ship. Considering everything else his company has pulled off (even through recent setbacks), it’s getting harder and harder to bet against him.
Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait too much longer for details. Musk is speaking at the International Astronautical Congress taking place Sept. 26-30, and there’s a decent chance he could at least pull the curtain back (a little) on his plans.