SpaceX's founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. --"I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to [...] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it," Musk told Zubrin. "... As far as we know... we could be the only life."
When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX's next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.
Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining 'city' on Mars. "If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?..." he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans' survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX's goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface 'as soon as possible', --"Are we creating a city on Mars ... before any possible World War three... [...]" -- He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity's existence.
"We need to wake up in the morning and be excited about the future... I think becoming a spacefaring civilization is one of those things everyone can get excited about," Musk said.
Musk also mentioned it is important to develop a reusable spacecraft-rocket duo because 'expendable rockets are a joke.' Engineers are working to develop a fully reusable Starship. He expects to have more frequent Starship flight tests in 2022. Musk said it is 'essential' to increase the rate of innovation to reach Mars in his lifetime, and predicted an uncrewed Starship could land on Mars' surface by the year 2024 if SpaceX's rate of innovation grows 'exponentially.'
"I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window," he said, in reference to the launch opportunity that arises every 26 months when Mars and Earth's orbit get closer to each other to enable a shorter-duration voyage. Musk said that if it weren't for the orbital alignments that enable voyages to Mars every 26 months, SpaceX "would maybe have a shot of sending or trying send something to Mars in three years," he told Zubrin, "But the window is four years away, because of them [planets] being in different parts of the solar system."
SpaceX is working on an ambitious timeline to develop a space-ready Starship. The company also plans to launch private space tourists on a Starship mission around the moon in 2023. NASA selected SpaceX to build a Starship Lunar Lander for the agency's Artemis program which aims to send the first woman and next man to the moon's surface in 2024.
Watch The Mars Society Conference!