If Elon Musk has his way, a self-sustaining colony on Mars will exist within the next 40 to 100 years. This is not just mere science fiction; there are actual plans in place to bring this very real goal to fruition soon.
Elon Musk of SpaceX has been very busy with his future plans to colonize Mars and has been doing things like building and testing rockets in his spare time when he’s not busy running his other companies, which include Tesla Motors and PayPal. He has achieved such a remarkable amount of things already that it makes his very exciting plans for a self-sustaining colony on Mars seem totally plausible. In fact, Musk has already stated as a matter of record that he is only interested in personal wealth insofar as he can then use his own money to help fund humans living in space, including his colony on Mars.
Today at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon gave a speech entitled Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species. The speech streamed live online, lasted one hour, and in his speech Musk retained his usual positivity, stating that he wanted to make going to Mars seem possible and especially wanted to show the world that it’s actually something that “we can do in our lifetimes.”
“As we show, this dream is real. I think the support will snowball over time.”
During Musk’s speech, he was able to excite the crowd by standing before a large representation of Mars which, while he was talking, showed just how habitable the planet could be as oceans suddenly appeared and Mars magically transformed into a planet that humans could pleasantly live on.
How many humans is he planning to launch into space in order to build and live on this colony on Mars? One million or more, Elon has stated. The timelines are as follows. Within 10 years, we will hopefully reach Mars. Every two years after that, when Mars and Earth are at their closest, new fleets of rockets would return to Mars with more people, and continued efforts to establish a new civilization on Mars would continue into the foreseeable future.
As mentioned above, while normally Mars is around 140 million miles away from Earth, once every 26 months the two planets come much closer together with a distance of only a mere 35 million miles separating them. They are practically neighbors then. This is why the fleets of rockets carrying Earth’s citizens would be utilized then, as it would certainly cut down on time spent traveling to Mars. However, it would still take months to reach the planet, and Elon Musk has said the average time spent traveling there would be 80 days, which would eventually be cut down to just 30 with time and future technological innovations.
After today’s speech, space analyst Paul Smith, from the consulting firm Tauri, had some questions about the logistics that would be involved in propelling people into space.
“In terms of the presentation today, I was particularly keen to learn about research and development costs, venture capital and other investments, returns on investments, manufacturing costs, and why and how one sustains a population on Mars. Musk did provide some insight into manufacturing costs, pricing, and sources of funding, but I need to study those to see if they are realistic.”
If you are wondering just when the first launch would be to test this all out, in 2018 or roughly thereabouts, an unmanned craft named Falcon Heavy will be taking to the skies if all goes well.
But how will his rockets work? One of the most pressing concerns is that the rockets carrying people need to be able to be used more than once and refueled in orbit before arriving on Mars. Once there, you would need to be able to fuel these rockets again, and to that end, NPR reports that as the atmosphere on Mars mainly consists of carbon dioxide, and ice has been found there as well, we may be able to create fuel based on methane once both humans and rockets have arrived.
What do you think? Would you volunteer to travel to Mars with SpaceX? How might civilization change with humans occupying two planets?
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian/Stringer/Getty Images]