Elon Musk Is Still Insisting Mars Will Be Settled in 2024 and Then Terraformed

 In Science
Elon Musk has doubled down on his plan to get people to Mars by 2024 and insisted that this projection is “not a typo.”

Musk laid out his Martian plan in the highest level of detail to date in a presentation he called “Making Life Multiplanetary.” It was delivered on the final day of the International Astronautical Congress, where Musk also presented an update on his Martian plan last year. Since 2016, Musk says that SpaceX has engineered the spacecraft for the mission and figured out how to pay for it.

The “code name” for this spaceship is the BFR, short for “Big Fucking Rocket.”

Basically, Musk said the BFR is a combination of SpaceX’s existing spacecrafts—namely, the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon—within a single ship. You might know the Falcon 9 for its “precision landings,” meaning it touches down in the upright position rather than crashing itself.

Musk specifically mentioned investors’ desire to see flight demonstrations before giving more money, so using elements of existing, successful spacecrafts also seems to be Musk’s way of addressing these concerns.

In order to make missions less expensive, Musk said that the BFR would first be sent into orbit, where a small vehicle would refuel its tank before departing for Mars.

This strategy enables a more weight-efficient fuel tank that can depart for Mars holding its full, 150-ton fuel capacity. This tank would be aided by solar arrays, which would deploy as the BFR coasts between Earth to Mars. A series of videos posted to Musk’s Instagram on Monday depicts what this would look like.

Representation of the BFR refuelling in orbit before departing for Mars, from Musk’s Instagram.

Musk outlined the BFR’s engine, heat shield, and reusability. He also showed a brief video representation of a precision-landing in Mars’s thin atmosphere.

The cargo area of the BFR is designed to accommodate one hundred people comfortably in forty cabins for three to six months. There’s also a solar storm shelter and an “entertainment area” (though Musk did not elaborate on what this “entertainment area” is).

But most importantly, Musk said that the BFR will begin construction in six to nine months, in which case it will be ready to send cargo to Mars by 2022. If this sounds impossible to you, it doesn’t to Musk.

“I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and be ready for a launch in about five years,” he said. “Five years feels like a long time to me.”

Since Earth and Mars are physically at their closest to one another every two years, Musk cited 2024 as an alternative date. However, Musk’s vision is to send people to Mars in 2024. He plans to launch two BFRs containing people, and two containing cargo.

As more people are sent to the Martian base, Musk envisions a city to emerge.

Representation of expanded Martian base with some human accommodations, in some year following 2022, from “Making Life Multiplanetary.”

But Musk doesn’t only plan on using the BFR technology for Mars. He plans to establish a lunar settlement called “Moon Base Alpha,” and use BFR as an alternative to commercial airlines. If implemented, Musk said people could go anywhere on Earth in under an hour.

Musk did not present timelines for the construction of Moon Base Alpha, or a commercial BFR system for intraplanetary flight.

“It’s 2017, we should have a lunar base by now,” Musk said. “What the hell is going on?”

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