Elon Musk has never made any qualms about his goals for private space firm SpaceX: He wants to get to Mars, and he’ll pretty much do it with or without NASA’s help. Now he’s opened up a bit more about the plan to make it happen.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Musk expounded a bit on his proposal to start sending SpaceX’s Dragon capsules to the Red Planet on some (unmanned) trips beginning in 2018, ahead of a manned ship (likely in a larger craft) by 2024. After the first mission in 2018, Musk said he wants to keep sending ships to Mars at least every two years in an effort to establish “a cargo route to Mars.” Proving he can consistently launch ships and land them successfully in one piece? That’s a big part of the puzzle.
Musk said his Mars missions would follow the two-year cycle to line up with the 26-month window for when flights between Earth and Mars are most optimal and closest to one another’s orbits. The billionaire said he’d like to start up regular missions to send supplies “like a train leaving the station.” It’s insanely ambitious, obviously, but SpaceX has been doing the near-impossible for a while now. If Musk thinks they can pull it off, there’s a pretty good chance they can.
To get all this hardware to Mars, SpaceX will be using its Falcon Heavy rocket, which is set to debut later this year. The company has also been testing the onboard rockets and landing gear for the Dragon capsules, an updated version of which will eventually lead the charge to Mars (NASA has been using Dragon capsules to resupply the ISS for a while now). The company will test its mysterious Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) craft by 2024, ahead of a legit manned mission to Mars in 2025. Musk said that first Mars trip will be crewed with a bare-bones staff, just in case something goes wrong, which makes sense.
For those keeping score: If Musk can keep this schedule, he could conceivably beat NASA astronauts to the moon by a decade (or more).
(Via The Washington Post)