Elon Musk really wants you to go to Mars. So much so that he’s just released a free paper in the journal New Space outlining how he’s going to get you there, and what you’ll do on the way.
“In order to make it appealing […] it has got to be really fun and exciting – it cannot feel cramped or boring,” Musk writes.
“Therefore, 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!”
We first learned about Musk’s plans to send people to Mars, and ultimately colonize it, in September 2016. In this commentary, he’s now put pen to paper on some of those ideas. As before, yes, a lot of it is a bit far-fetched – but there’s some serious science there too.
“History is going to bifurcate along two directions,” Musk begins in typical Musky fashion. “One path is we stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some eventual extinction event.
“The alternative is to become a space-bearing civilization and a multi-planetary species, which I hope you would agree is the right way to go.”
How he wants to achieve this is with his Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). Comprising a reusable rocket – the largest ever built – and a shuttle-esque vehicle, Musk envisions this transporting people on regular trips to Mars. Within a century, he wants 1 million people to be living on Mars.
Whether that will happen is up for debate. But the journey towards that goal does seem kind of possible. SpaceX hopes to start sending unmanned missions to Mars as early as 2020, with manned missions to follow down the line.
The main barrier to getting people to Mars, Musk says, is cost. “You cannot create a self-sustaining civilization if the ticket price is $10 billion per person,” he says.
“If we can get the cost of moving to Mars to be roughly equivalent to a median house price in the United States, which is around $200,000, then I think the probability of establishing a self-sustaining civilization is very high. I think it would almost certainly occur.”
Making this possible is several-fold. It includes making launch vehicles reusable, like SpaceX have been doing with their Falcon 9 rocket. It also involves finding ways to make propellant on Mars, perhaps using its carbon dioxide to produce usable methane and oxygen.