Elon Musk has long planned for SpaceX to colonize the red planet, but now it seems the Mars Colonial Transporter could be destined to help mankind establish a permanent presence elsewhere in the solar system.
The SpaceX CEO took to Twitter Friday evening to say the Colonial Transporter needed a new name, as it might be travelling to different spots in the solar system besides Mars.
“Turns out MCT can go well beyond Mars, so will need a new name.”
Musk was flooded with suggestions with Twitter users proposing names like Heart of Gold, Zaphod Beeblebrox’s stolen ship in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Colonial One from Battlestar Galactica. Other suggestions include Millennium, Ultimate Mars Ship II, Snickers, Marathon, Indestructible II, from the game Orion Trail, and Booster McBoosterface.
The next day Musk had his name; he dubbed his new spacecraft the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS).
The ITS is capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo or 100 people to Mars or beyond. The red planet isn’t the only place in the solar system worth colonizing, its just the most popular. Humans could establish other offworld colonies in places like Venus, the moon, the asteroid Ceres, and possibly the moons around the outer planets.
Musk didn’t go into further details about the range of the Colonial Transporter, nor did he imply SpaceX has any further goals of establishing more colonies on more worlds than Mars. He has, however, promised to reveal many of his plans for a Martian colony at the upcoming International Astronautical Congress in Mexico on Sept. 27.
During the conference, Musk is scheduled to deliver the keynote address entitled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.”
The SpaceX Colonial Transporter is slated to make an unmanned test flight to Mars, which will be followed by one with human passengers in 2024. Musk has warned would-be red planet settlers that the first Earth Mars transits’ will be difficult and dangerous, according to the International Business Times.
“It’s dangerous and probably people will die – and they’ll know that. And then they’ll pave the way, and ultimately it will be very safe to go to Mars, and it will be very comfortable.”
The news about Musk renaming his Colonial Transporter comes after the recent explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its launch pad during a test earlier this month, which rocked the space travel industry.
The resulting fire destroyed the $62 million reusable rocket and the $200 million satellite it was carrying. The investigation into the cause of the explosion, caused when an anomaly in the rocket’s second stage sparked a massive fireball, is sure to delay the SpaceX launch schedule.
That’s bad news for SpaceX customers who have been waiting to have their satellites flown into orbit, but it may also slow down SpaceX’s own test flight schedule and delay construction of a future Mars colony.
SpaceX isn’t the only company looking to capitalize on the renewed interest in space travel. Already, one company is building an asteroid-mining spacecraft with the goal of extracting valuable resources from passing space rocks.
They would fit well in the cislunar economy that United Launch Alliance is establishing in low-Earth orbit. The partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing envisions 1,000 people living and working in space within our lifetime.
With NASA planning to abandon the International Space Station in the 2020s and divert federal funds to a manned Mars mission, it will need a commercial interest to take over its responsibilities.
The space station could find itself as the new hub of a cislunar economy, as it becomes a gas station in orbit receiving loads of cargo from ULA space trucks and trading supplies for resources mined from passing asteroids.
[Featured Image by Jae C. Hong/AP Photo; File]