Elon Musk envisions 'fun' but dangerous trips to Mars (Update 4)

Mars
Credit: NASA
SpaceX chief Elon Musk unveiled on Tuesday ambitious plans to establish a Mars colony by sending 100 humans at a time on massive spacecraft, possibly costing as low as $100,000 per person.

Taking the stage under a large globe of Mars at the International Astronautical Congress in western Mexico, Musk showed his vision for a giant rocket that would propel people to the Red Planet "in our lifetime."

He told reporters he was "optimistic" that the first human mission could leave Earth in 2024 and arrive several hundred million kilometres away on the Red Planet the following year.

Before that, SpaceX plans to send an unmanned Dragon cargo capsule as early as 2018.

"I think the first trips to Mars are going to be really, very dangerous. The risk of fatality will be high. There is just no way around it," Musk said. "It would basically be, 'Are you prepared to die?' Then if that's ok, then you are a candidate for going."

These risk-taking pioneers would open the way for others under Musk's vision, which one expert warned was "long on vision, short on detail."

"We need to go from these early exploration missions to actually building a city," Musk said to an overflow crowd at an expo center in the city of Guadalajara.

A futuristic video depicted his concept of an interplanetary transport system based on reusable rockets, a propellant farm on Mars and 1,000 spaceships on orbit, carrying about 100 people each.

The spacecraft would have a restaurant, cabins, zero-gravity games and movies.

"It has to be fun or exciting. It can't feel cramped or boring," he said.

'Affordable' ticket price

The South Africa-born Canadian-American entrepreneur said the plan would require a "huge public-private partnership," but did not announce any alliance with a government agency.

The first flight would be expensive but the aim is "making this affordable to almost anyone who wants to go," by dropping the price of a ticket over time from $200,000 to $100,000, Musk said.

"You can't create a self-sustaining civilization on Mars if the ticket price is $10 billion per person," he said.

While SpaceX was hit by a setback on September 1 when its Falcon 9 rocket, after several successful missions and vertical landings, exploded on the launch pad during a test in Florida, Musk said "this is just a small thing on a long road."

SpaceX is not alone in aspiring to travel to Mars.

SpaceX has already designed the powerful Falcon rocket, which could send a manned Dragon spacecraft towards the Red Planet
SpaceX has already designed the powerful Falcon rocket, which could send a manned Dragon spacecraft towards the Red Planet

The US space agency NASA, which is studying the effects of long-term space flight on the human body, has announced its own plans to send people to Mars by the 2030s.

Blue Origin, a company founded by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, also envisions a Mars mission, but decades from now.

Costly, challenging

Experts warn that reaching Mars—225 million kilometers (140 million miles) from Earth on average—and living there requires major engineering feats and a massive budget.

John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, said Musk's presentation was "long on vision, short on detail."

Musk did not explain in detail how he would get the "billions of dollars that would be required to put the vision into reality."

The plan also faces technical challenges, such as refueling in orbit, which has never been done, and building fuel depots on Mars.

Chris Carberry, chief executive of Explore Mars Inc, a non-profit promoting the goal of sending humans to the planet within two decades, said a mission of just three to six people would cost between $80 billion and $120 billion.

Musk's presentation is "very inspiring, aspirational, but I think it's going to be very challenging to be able to accomplish this in 10 years."

"I think it's probably more likely we're going to send a smaller mission to first figure out if people can live on Mars before we send 100 people there at a time," he said.

Musk said the rocket would take a spaceship into orbit, release it and land back on Earth to pick up a fuel tanker, which it would fly to the craft to fuel its journey to Mars. The trip would one day take as little as three months, or even less than one month.

Once on Mars, humans would have to install a plant to produce propellant by using the planet's methane resources to fuel the spacecraft for its return to Earth.

Musk posted a photo on Twitter this week showing the first test-firing of "the Raptor interplanetary transport engine."

Space competition

SpaceX has achieved engineering breakthroughs, notably by successfully landing the Falcon 9 rocket upright, which could cut space travel costs by making rockets reusable.

Blue Origin has also built a rocket that lands vertically and is working on a taller launcher called New Glenn, but the company is focusing on sending people to Earth's low orbit for now.

"We want to have millions of people living and working in space in a decades timeframe if they want to," Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson told AFP.


Explore further

SpaceX will spend $300 million on Red Dragon Mars mission, NASA says

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Sep 27, 2016
Mind blowing, may be Elon's but hopefully not the rest of us, otherwise he must be locked up.
Elon earned every badge of SV technology psychedelic gurus. And his incoherent utterances only confirm already common knowledge he, a ZIRP fueled Wall Street crony boy trying to realize his sick dreams and we are paying for it.
Just to clarify his previous statements:
No Elon, we are not cyborgs. You are.
No Elon, we are not living in fake digital reality. You are.
No Elon. We should not be able to launch people [to Mars] in 2025." You should be able to launch yourself to Kingdom come any day now.
No Elon. Right now you're not trying to maximize Earth-based revenue, you are trying to exploit earthlings and move on to another planet for spread more carnage, so your shrink says.

And hell no. No UFO blew up your rocket toy, I paid for it, Elon. It was your megalomania and greed.


Sep 27, 2016
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Sep 27, 2016
"Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species"

Whatever you may think of the man - he certainly has a way with words. And the ideas he has kicked off so far (from PayPal to Tesla to SpaceX) have all shown that they can get stuff out that actually works - so he's got a track record of not being a vapor-ware salesman.

Sep 27, 2016
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Sep 27, 2016
@optical going to the moon gave us the technology to send satellites into space with minimal risk. Now our civilisation could not function without these very satellites for communication, GPS, etc. What did Colombus gain on his first voyage to the Americas? Nothing. Just a proof of concept and inspiring the world to untold new possibilities of a previously unreachable land.

Sep 27, 2016
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Sep 27, 2016
have all shown that they can get stuff out that actually works


Except for when they don't work and don't meet his hype, and when his factories can't put out the products he's promised.

Price hikes, production delays, unsafe features, exploding cars, exploding rockets, announcing products and ideas that he can't make or deliver, and a multitude of companies that haven't turned a single year of profit on their own products in over a decade and instead run on invested capital for their day-to-day operations.

It's engineering to the minimum and self-promotion to the maximum.

Sep 27, 2016
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Sep 27, 2016
"Bottom line is the cost. You're talking of tens of billions of dollars and SpaceX doesn't have that type of money."

-Perhaps he is in mexico to discuss mutual interests with drug cartels-

Sep 27, 2016
All keep talking about oil fueled rockets, knowing that oil fueled projectiles are not going to deliver anything more than dead bodies anywhere else but the moon because the time scales for chem fueled junk is just too long. We need electric or plasma space propulsion and none is being even considered here. The Coeff of Performance of what the oil industry is peddling is just too poor to make it to anywhere and deliver humans alive, not to mention humans able to do useful work. If that is all the industry 'visionaries' can provide, then wait till we have small fusion generators like 'Focus Fusion' to make a rocket that can provide both power, propulsion, and shielding and get us to Mars and back in a couple of weeks, and then turn around and do it again with no need to refuel. Such could even soft land on both Mars AND Earth!!

Sep 27, 2016
Martians aren't going to like this. They don't want us to know what goes on there.

Sep 27, 2016
I'm tired to see the same formulas again and again. There is nothing new in Musk ideas, it is the same technology from the sixties, same mission proposals, and not evolved expect perhaps for reusability. And that is supposing that he can really build an efficient engine fully reusable without high maintenance costs, which obviously is not the case of their current "Merlin". let's see what he can achieve with the new raptor, but with all this marketing-for-idiots I am becoming a bit exceptic

Sep 28, 2016
The only chance that the world had for inexpensive, high mass space travel, to colonize Mars, explore the planets with manned flights was Project Orion. President Kennedy stupidly panicked when the military suggested it could be used for orbiting weapons platforms and so Kennedy killed it, went with Apollo, a chemical rocket. Things haven't advanced one iota since then, in-fact, they've gone backward. There is NO economical propulsion system that could launch a CAT for $100k into orbit, let alone send a human to Mars. Musk is just insane.

Sep 28, 2016
The only chance that the world had for inexpensive, high mass space travel, to colonize Mars, explore the planets with manned flights was Project Orion. President Kennedy stupidly panicked when the military suggested it could be used for orbiting weapons platforms and so Kennedy killed it, went with Apollo, a chemical rocket. Things haven't advanced one iota since then, in-fact, they've gone backward. There is NO economical propulsion system that could launch a CAT for $100k into orbit, let alone send a human to Mars. Musk is just insane.

Sep 28, 2016
There is nothing new in Musk ideas, it is the same technology from the sixties, same mission proposals, and not evolved expect perhaps for reusability

With the tiny detail that he actually manages to get these from paper into product. While some* may argue that that is not an 'innovative' step - it certainly is a THE crucial one with any invention.

* I refer here to people who have never actually made anything themselves based on theory. The devil is in the details. With any such first implementations there is a lot of miocro-innovation that needs to be done on the spot during the actual engineering stages. It may not be the 'grand sweeping vision' type of innovations, but they're the bits that get stuff to work in the end.

If you don't believe me look at fusion research. The idea of fusion is simple. But the implementation has necessitated (and still necessitates) many small breakthroughs in areas the vision doesn't encompass.

Sep 28, 2016
With any such first implementations there is a lot of miocro-innovation that needs to be done
Aa wallows in myopia. Tech cascades have been the norm - consider how quickly the autobahn and international airports sprung from the work of Ford and the wright bros.

And we have decades of experience building and living in harsh environments. Nuclear sub tech for instance is directly applicable to space and colony habitats.

I was walking through a mall the other day and thinking that that sort of space could be under the surface of Mars in a century, built by nuclear-powered robots. Even the skylights could be peaking out of the regolith.

As it is, humans spend most of their time indoors. Nuke explosives, borers, and excavators will quickly build musk's shining city on the hill. Or more specifically, under it.


Sep 28, 2016
If you don't believe me look at fusion research. The idea of fusion is simple. But the implementation has necessitated (and still necessitates) many small breakthroughs in areas the vision doesn't encompass
Fusion has required, and still requires, tech advances which don't yet exist. Most all the tech necessary to colonize Mars already exists and the planet has all the resources to use it.
http://ntrs.nasa....5963.pdf

Sep 28, 2016
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Sep 28, 2016
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Sep 28, 2016
Nuclear sub tech for instance is directly applicable to space and colony habitats.

Nope. Because nukes are cooled by water and water vapor cycles on Earth - with much of the water vapor discarded into the atmosphere or cooling water taken from/discharged into streams. Water is at a premium on Mars so you need different cooling (e.g. closed cycles which are much less efficient).

Borers need extensive maintenance infrastructure (not to be had in the initial phases on Mars), so they will have to be constructed differently to operate very slow - or maybe even use digging tools that are non-contact (plasma arcs/lasers) that would take a very long time but are easier to maintain.

The easiest place to dig in would be the CO2 icecaps, but digging in CO2 has totally different difficulties than digging in regular ice.

Nuke explosives

Yay. Know how graet it would be to live in a Nevada test site crater? Wanna buy some real-estate cheap? I got some for ya.

Sep 28, 2016
Musk is dedicating part of his life and investments to this, so I regognise he is a valuable figure. But the only new thing from yesterday is just a "video", not better or worst than similar ideas. The colonisation idea is pure science fiction out of reach. The important thing is if he manages to develop an economical way to go to near orbit, as beyond that point there is no real business and any project will require insane amount of funds. If he solves the NEO problem then I will start to believe on him. But next stage is not about making fancy videos, it is about developing truly reusable engines with low maintenance costs. Space Shuttle was also reusable, but maintenence costs killed the project. Other space agencies don't try to recover their first stages not because it is difficult but because their engines can not fly again. That's is the aspect where I want to see real progress, not on CGI animation.

Sep 28, 2016
any project will require insane amount of funds.

Well, if the 100k travel cost is achievable then he might actually have a business case. Because I'd wager there's more than enough people willing to caugh up that amount of cash up front for a chance to go (or even live) on Mars.

Although I'm pretty sure that banks won't lone anyone money to go to Mars for quite some time. It'd be hard to collect the debt.

Sep 28, 2016
I am so Grateful for Elon Musk, a person who seems to genuinely try to bring us into a sci-fi type future, even in ways that people say are 'not profitable'. The original trip to the moon was 'not profitable' either, yet it inspires all of mankind. I am inspired by the Tesla Electric Cars, simply because here is something that CAN be done, but bigger companies want to hold on to their current cash cows, and they don't do it. Well Elon Did! I love that! Not Everything is about PROFIT, sometimes all of mankind can profit with Hope, with Imagination, and with an understanding that if something can be done, we can do it.

In Regards to going to Mars, there are many technologies that need to function well to accomplish it. I do not think sending People there early on is the best idea. We would be better served to send function robots that can build a habitat with native materials. Have the ability to print parts, grow food, etc. Then we can send people. It seems easier that way......

Sep 28, 2016
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Sep 28, 2016
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Sep 28, 2016
Nope. Because nukes are cooled by water and water vapor cycles on Earth - with much of the water vapor discarded into the atmosphere or cooling water taken from/discharged into streams etc
Cooling is only one aspect of what is a very complex system. But cooling extraterrestrial reactors is existing tech.

"In mid-2012 NASA reported successful tests of power conversion and radiator components of this 40 kWe system, which is based on a small fission reactor heating up and circulating a liquid metal coolant mixture of sodium and potassium. The heat differential between this and the outside temperature would drive two complementary Stirling engines to turn a 40 kWe generator. Some 100 square metres of radiators would remove process heat to space."

-Humans have been doing it for 50 years.
http://www.world-...ace.aspx

Sep 28, 2016
Yay. Know how graet it would be to live in a Nevada test site crater? Wanna buy some real-estate cheap? I got some for ya.
Yeah I know how big powerful noisy things like nukes and the USA scare you.
Borers need extensive maintenance infrastructure (not to be had in the initial phases on Mars), so they will have to be constructed differently to operate very slow - or maybe even use digging tools that are non-contact (plasma arcs/lasers) that would take a very long time but are easier to maintain
-and its so cute how you like to engineer on the fly, as if these things occur to you and not to the engrs actually working on them.

Sep 28, 2016
"On line information presents research was funded by the United States Government for the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories University of California, Los Alamos, New Mexico for a project Camelot under the heading Systems and Cost Analysis for a Nuclear Subterrene Tunneling Machine. A patent was subsequently issued under number 3,693,731 on September 26, 1972. A patent search can be made with full text and images at www.uspto.gov.
The design concepts fall into similar designs of current technology of our nuclear submarine fleet and existing tunnel boring technology as used in the Chunnel between England and France, but with the added feature of melting rock for the tunnel wall lining..."
Borers need extensive maintenance infrastructure (not to be had in the initial phases on Mars)
Grinders can be serviced by generic robotic excavators carrying away debris. Curiosity rovers with dozer buckets.

Melters will need less service.

Sep 28, 2016
Anybody seen the 'Martian' movie. Who the hell wants to live there? Earth is much nicer. Keep it clean and safe from the overlords. That is what the DOD has been working on since Reagan's initiative. The universe is already widely inhabited. Likely, even Mars too, not to mention the Moon.

Sep 29, 2016
This story is believable to dopey millenials (most of whom are English lit grads) who think Ted Talks are the height of intellectualism.

Sep 29, 2016
Anybody seen the 'Martian' movie. Who the hell wants to live there? Earth is much nicer. Keep it clean and safe from the overlords. That is what the DOD has been working on since Reagan's initiative. The universe is already widely inhabited. Likely, even Mars too, not to mention the Moon
Better there in a nice subsurface mall than manhattan.

Sep 30, 2016
"Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species"

Whatever you may think of the man - he certainly has a way with words. And the ideas he has kicked off so far (from PayPal to Tesla to SpaceX) have all shown that they can get stuff out that actually works - so he's got a track record of not being a vapor-ware salesman.


That quote is exactly the worrisome part, makes me question his sanity. His other reason 'to inspire and challenge humanity' is valid I think.
I'm afraid Musk highly underestimates the difficulties bootstrapping a self sustained economy on Mars, similar to his overconfidence in self driving cars and the amount of (a)i needed to get that at human level (by measuring the actual performance and not using (skewed) accident statistics).

Sep 30, 2016
I'm afraid Musk highly underestimates the difficulties bootstrapping a self sustained economy on Mars

I think he contradicts himself a bit on this part:
"You can't create a self-sustaining civilization on Mars if the ticket price is $10 billion per person," he said.

If the price is 10bn per person then having it self sustainable is the only way it would work. With a ticket price of 100-200k you could keep a Mars colony alive even while it#s mostly dependent on Earth for supplies (expensive but financially feasible).

But then again, there was no shortage of people that said bootstrapping a real player in the auto-industry (with a totally unconventional drive concept to boot) was impossible, so what do I know?

Sep 30, 2016
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Oct 01, 2016
That man envisions fun but dangerous trips to Mars, huh.....well, that's true. But we did that since the dawn of our existence. Fun and dangerous trips, that is. Damn, even just travelling through a forest would be insane in the beginning.
Elon Musk is just doing like the other people back then. Considering things which would costs thousands of lives, if not more, to let us go further.
Success? Failure? We won't know till we try. We always tried. So far, we've managed to survive thanks to this. Why would it be different if we try our best, as we've always did? (And by that, i mean trying our best while dodging the darts and fireball thrown by the People of the Only Truth. Yep, no matter what, we can't do it. So says their Mystical Veracious Inner Voice. You don't mess with such facts!)

Oct 01, 2016
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Oct 01, 2016
The America was revealed by Columbus accidentally, when he looked for shorter path to Indian gold. With compare to it, the proposal of Musk lacks any utilitarian value thinkable - it's just an evasion for tax payers money spending on behalf of private company.


Then, maybe Muskumbus will accidentally discover something interesting while looking for a viable way to collect Martian gold?
It's not that ridiculous, knowing we never spent time outside our world, not even during our vacation. Who knows what kind of fucked up thing we may encounter during the trip? A space leviathan?

Oct 01, 2016
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Oct 01, 2016
So this is easier than building a orbital taurus? I thought there was more economy here in orbit

Oct 01, 2016
Martian gold? There is no gold at Mars. We already spent some time at Moon before forty five years, so we can pretty exactly extrapolate, what will happen after mission at Mars. We just depleted the oil reserves, nothing else changed during it. The key for actual progress is in terrestrial research of overunity, cold fusion, superconductivity - not in void demonstrations of extra planetary travel for TV shows.


It's....i...i was just joking about the Martian gold actually....i mean, come on, it was just some hyperbole to compare the situations, it's obvious we won't put trappers and the such on that planet like we did on America.
Mars isn't just a giant rock too far away from us to be interesting, or too deadly to be viable for us. Just like the Moon (I can bet you never lived there, though the neighboorhood is likely to be quite nice) it still has some answers to deliver, while being a sweet place to inhabit....with proper preparations.

Oct 02, 2016
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Oct 02, 2016
Being on Mars (or the Moon) might be useful in the long run. Consider that manufacturing stuff is moving more and more towards 3D printing. I.e. creating sophisticated products no longer requires a complicated and extensive chain of specialty suppliers.
So think about putting big ships/installations into space. Where would you rather build these: On Earth (or in Earth orbit where you have to ferry all kinds of material up a steep gravity well)? ... or on the Moon/Mars.

Oct 02, 2016
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Oct 02, 2016
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Oct 02, 2016
I just have to laugh at all the experts and pundits that say it cannot be done in ten years, it is too challenging, it will cost billions and its long on vision and short on detail.
Reminds me of all the naysayers when JFK announced plans to go to the moon. People laughed, joked and sneered. There were multiple crashes and explosions on the launch pad in the early stages of development and we lost three astronauts. But thousands of dedicated people rose to the challenge, overcame all the difficulties and we made it. One of the greatest achievements, if not the greatest, in the history of mankind. We have the technology to do it, (unlike then), there are people who want to go and people who will pay. It WILL happen. The question is, who will be the first to get there?

Oct 02, 2016
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Oct 02, 2016
I like Musk the dreamer/inventor butt this talk is just stupid , off to the failed planet we go, to die. disappointing.

Oct 03, 2016
Reminds me of all the naysayers when JFK announced plans to go to the moon. People laughed, joked and sneered.
We have the technology to do it, (unlike then), there are people who want to go and people who will pay. It WILL happen.


Back then, teaching a lesson to Soviets (and the world?) was the principal catalyst.
And it will happen, yes. But the situation is different. There will be no timeline, no rush as intense as back then.

I like Musk the dreamer/inventor butt this talk is just stupid , off to the failed planet we go, to die. disappointing.


Off to the failed planet we go, to live and maybe revive it. Which other species/civilizations will wage war on us for taking Mars? Probably none. So, it's available.
Why can't we live there yet? We need to reach it and secure habitable areas. It'll probably be even healthier to live there than in some parts of China.
Why is it disappointing? Because only your children/grandchildren may experience that future.

Oct 04, 2016
I still think we should focus our efforts on building autonomous robots that we can send ahead of us, which can use the materials present to build a complex. This would be easier to practice with on the Moon, and it would be nice to have a resort up there. That is, if the supposed current inhabitants allow us to build there.

Oct 04, 2016
I still think we should focus our efforts on building autonomous robots that we can send ahead of us, which can use the materials present to build a complex. This would be easier to practice with on the Moon, and it would be nice to have a resort up there. That is, if the supposed current inhabitants allow us to build there.


It may be better indeed. Who knows, maybe he'll decide so later, before the "due date"?
As for the supposed current inhabitants....we'll need more robots to find them first, i think. Because damn, aren't they Solar System Top Tier of the Hide and Seek game!?

Oct 04, 2016
Back then, teaching a lesson to Soviets (and the world?) was the principal catalyst.

Well, he's not advocating a national plan. So the principal catalyst this time is to have a vision.

If people really need some "good vs. evil" motivation to do anything that isn't directly related to food/sex/warmth then I'm sure a 'race' with the Chinese can be arranged.

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