SpaceX founder Elon Musk opened up about the urgency to build a reusable Starship that could enable humanity to build a second home on Mars during a recent podcast interview with Lex Fridman, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Musk is known for setting bold timelines to accomplish company objectives. The 50-year-old aims to build the first colony on Mars in his lifetime, SpaceX teams at Starbase Texas are working around-the-clock to develop a Starship that will become the world’s most powerful launch vehicle, capable of lifting 100 metric tons of cargo to orbit. The Starship spacecraft will be able to transport up to one hundred passengers to the Red Planet and all the necessary equipment to survive on the Martian surface. As of today, engineers are working to perform the first orbital Starship prototype flight test planned for early 2022.
“When do you think SpaceX will land a human being on Mars?” Fridman asked during the podcast, after a long period of silence Musk replied –“Best case is about 5 years, worst case 10 years.” The primary factor that could affect the timeline is “the engineering of the vehicle. Starship is the most complex and advanced rocket that has ever been made … by an order of magnitude… it’s really next level,” Musk said. No aerospace company has ever developed a fully-reusable rocket with Starship's planned capabilities. SpaceX also faces the challenge to build and operate the launch vehicle(s) in a cost-effective manner. “The fundamental optimization of Starship is minimizing cost per ton to orbit and ultimately cost per ton to the surface of Mars. This might seem like a mercantile objective but is actually the thing that needs to be optimized,” he explained. “There is a certain cost per ton to the surface of Mars where we can afford to establish a self-sustaining city … above that we cannot afford to do it. Right now, you could not afford to go to Mars for a trillion dollars cause no amount of money could get you a ticket to Mars,” Musk said, adding that SpaceX needs to get the cost down to something that is even ‘possible at all.’
“We don’t just want to have flags and footprints” on Mars “and not come back for a half century” like astronauts' visit to the Moon, he added. Musk really wants humans to build a sustainable presence on Mars. “In order to pass the very important Great Filter, I think we need to be a multi-planet species. Which may sound somewhat esoteric to a lot of people but … eventually, given enough time … Earth is likely to experience some calamity. It could be something that humans do to themselves or an external event like what happened to the dinosaurs,” Musk said.
“If none of that happens and somehow magically we keep going then the Sun is gradually expanding and will engulf the Earth and probably Earth gets too hot for life,” he explains. This destructive event by our Sun is expected to happen sometime in 5 billion years, “It’s a long time but that’s only 10 percent longer than Earth has been around,” Musk said. “So if you think about the current situation, it’s really remarkable and kinda’ hard to believe, Earth has been around four-and-a-half-billion-years and this is the first time in four-and-a-half-billion-years that it’s been possible to extend life beyond Earth. And that window of opportunity may be open for a long time – and I hope it is – but it could be open for a short time. […] I think it’s wise for us to act quickly, just in case it closes,” Musk told Fridman during the podcast. You can watch their full discussion in the video linked below.
VIDEO: Lex Fridman Podcast Interview With Elon Musk
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.