Image Source: SpaceX
Would you relocate off-planet to start a new life on Mars? The Chief Engineer and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, aims to develop a Starship fleet to send one million people to Mars by the year 2050. He believes that a future where everyone could travel to space is more exciting. Also, that enabling life on another planet could help preserve 'the light if consciousness' if some kind of disaster would threaten to wipe out our species in the future. At Starship's design unveiling event Musk wholeheartedly said:
"Consciousness is a rare and precious thing, we should take whatever steps we can to preserve the light of consciousness...We should do our very best to become a multi-planet species, extend consciousness beyond Earth and we should do it now."
There is a lot of work to be done to eventually transform humanity into a multi-planet species. SpaceX is currently working day and night shifts to build its next prototype of the Starship spacecraft, which is currently under development in SpaceX facilities located in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville, Texas. They are currently developing their first flight prototype referred to as Starship SN1. The company aims to create 20 prototypes featuring slight changes from one another to conduct test flights.
The final version of Starship will be designed to become the most powerful rocket-spaceship duo ever created; powered by 41 next-generation Raptor engines that will surpass the thrust capabilities of the Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the moon during NASA's Apollo missions. Starship will be capable of performing long-voyages to Mars carrying 100 people and over 100 tons of cargo.
Musk says, "Megatons per year to orbit are needed for life to become multiplanetary." In order to build a permanent settlement on Mars and maintain a human presence, he estimates that a fleet of 1,000 Starships, would be capable of transporting 100 megatons of crucial cargo to Mars.
A fleet of 1,000 Starships could transport 100 passengers each, totaling to 100,000 people per year launched to the Red Planet. This would happen once every 2 years, because the time that the orbits of Earth and Mars get closer in alignment is about every 26 months. Taking advantage of closer orbit periods allows for Starship to thrust forward from Earth's rotation and embark on a low-fuel journey toward Mars. Musk explained he would take advantage of that opportunity by "loading the Mars fleet into Earth orbit," then sending all 1,000 ships to Mars over that 30-day planet alignment window every 26 months. Starship is being designed with the plan of launching it for an average of 3 flights per day, that is an average of 1,000 flights per year for one particular Starship.
So, by 2050 one million humans would be on the Red Planet's surface. Engineers aim to create a Starship capable of being as reusable as an airplane or a car, with a lifespan of around 20 to 30 years like the commercial aircraft we use today. Musk added he would like to make the trip to Mars available to anybody, "Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don't have money," he said, "There will be a lot of jobs on Mars!" There will especially be jobs involving building a propellant plant to enable voyages back to Earth. Starship's Raptor engines were especially developed to be able to be refueled on Mars' surface. The craft's engines are powered by cryogenic methane and liquid oxygen which can be made on Mars upon arrival. Carbon dioxide could be extracted from the planet's atmosphere and sub-surface ice water can be dug up to create methane and liquid oxygen - through electrolysis and the Sabatier process, in order to refuel a return to Earth. Building a propellant plant will be one of the most important tasks future Martians will work in, to transform into a successful spacefaring civilization.
In September 2019, Musk said he hopes to launch a Starship into orbit by mid-2020 and maybe even fly a person in it before the end of the year. Gwynne Shotwell, the President of SpaceX, said during a NASA teleconference that the company was "aiming to be able to drop Starship on the lunar surface in 2022" and fly the Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa on a space tour around the moon aboard Starship in 2023.
Read more: SpaceX will launch Yusaku Maezawa on a voyage to the Moon he is searching for a girlfriend to go with him.
SpaceX has developed some of the most technologically advanced rockets. Their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket are capable of being launched into space then return, landing vertically on autonomous droneships at sea, in order to be reused again. No other rocket company has achieved that level of reusability. So, there is no doubt their ambitious Starship plans to colonize Mars can begin becoming a reality within this decade. Adventure awaits!
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About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.