Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, is working towards making life multiplanetary. SpaceX engineers are in the process of developing Starship, a massive spaceship-rocket duo that will one day be capable of performing voyages to the moon, Mars and beyond. The first prototypes of Starship are under construction at SpaceX South Texas in Boca Chica Beach. Each stainless-steel prototype will undergo a series of tests, through trial and error they will develop a space-ready craft. The company plans to conduct a debut test flight with a Starship vehicle this year. The first flight is expected to be 150 meters, followed by a high-altitude flight of 20 kilometers. SpaceX aims to complete Starship's development in less than three years. The first private passenger, Yusaku Maezawa, is funding the spacecraft's development. He booked voyage around the moon aboard Starship, scheduled for 2023. Maezawa envisions transforming his space tour into an art project called "Dear Moon." Artists could create art and play instruments in zero gravity during the voyage.
SpaceX released a Starship user guide document that describes the spacecraft's capabilities and features. The spacecraft will be capable of transporting 100 passengers and over 100 tons of cargo. The crew configuration of Starship will include private cabins that could accommodate 2 to 3 passengers comfortably. The craft will also feature large common areas, centralized storage space, solar storm shelters and a viewing gallery. In a 2017 New Space journal publication, Musk described his plans to make space travel fun, like traveling aboard a cruise ship.
"...The crew compartment or the occupant compartment is set up so that you can do zero gravity games - you can float around. There will be movies, lecture halls, cabins, and a restaurant. It will be really fun to go. You are going to have a great time!"
Starship's pressurized cabin space is expected to measure around 1,000 cubic meters. "In order to make it appealing and increase that portion of the Venn diagram where people actually want to go, it has got to be really fun and exciting, it cannot feel cramped or boring," he said. Musk imagines musicians playing in zero-gravity. He shared a beautiful photograph via Twitter, of a violinist playing in space. "There will be a common area in the forward section with a big window like this. [photo below] It will be a lot heavier than steel, but not dangerous. Consider astronauts on the moon with a very thin windowed helmet. They were fine."
Source: Elon Musk
Musk envisions a fleet of hundreds of Starships embarking on a journey to Mars. By 2050, he hopes that one million humans could live sustainably 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. Reusability is key, in order to significantly reduce the cost of spaceflight. Musk would like to make trips to Mars available to everyone, "Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don't have money. There will be a lot of jobs on Mars!" Especially jobs involving building a propellant plant to enable voyages back to Earth. Starship's Raptor engines were specifically developed to enable refueling on Mars' surface. The craft's engines are powered by cryogenic methane and liquid oxygen which can be made on Mars upon arrival by digging subsurface water-ice and capturing carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere to synthesize fuel through the Sabatier process. "It would be pretty absurd to try and build a city on Mars if your spaceships just stayed on Mars and did not go back to Earth," he said. "You would have a massive graveyard of ships. You want to build a propellant plant and send the ships back."
"The main reason I am personally accumulating assets is in order to fund this." Musk stated, "I really do not have any other motivation for personally accumulating assets except to be able to make the biggest contribution I can to making life multi-planetary."