spaceSpace and Physics

Elon Musk Drops Exciting Hint About His Plans To Colonize Mars


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer


SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has hinted that he might reveal new information on his plans to colonize Mars very soon.

In a short tweet, Musk said he would possibly give an update in September about his bold proposal to have a million people living there by the end of the century.


This would be at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which is taking place in Adelaide, Australia from September 25 to 29.

“Maybe the upcoming IAC in Adelaide,” Musk said on Twitter, in response to a question asking when he would reveal the next update on his mission.


At the moment, though, the IAC said they had not been informed that Musk wanted to give a talk. "So far as we know Mr Musk has no plans to attend IAC2017," a spokesperson told IFLScience. They did note he might sort of do his own thing there, though.

"I hope he will move in the direction of adopting some of the ideas I presented in [my] critique, so as to make his architecture practical," aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin, famed for his Mars Direct proposal, told IFLScience.


If you’re keeping track, you’ll remember that Musk first revealed his plan to colonize Mars, called the International Transport System (ITS), at last year’s IAC in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Huge scores of people attended his talk, which was described as being more like a rock concert than a scientific talk. Nonetheless, there is plenty of interest in hearing more about Musk’s plans.

At that talk last year, Musk announced he wanted to start sending people to Mars as early as 2024. That’s now likely to be delayed, but if he gets anywhere near that time frame it’ll still be much earlier than NASA’s plan to send humans to Mars in the late 2030s.

The rocket used to carry humans to Mars would be the biggest ever built, called the Mars Vehicle. It would measure 122 meters high (400 feet), compared to 111 meters (364 feet) for the Saturn V that took astronauts to the Moon. More impressively, it would be able to take 550,000 kilograms (1.2 million pounds) to low Earth orbit, compared to 135,000 kilograms (300,000 pounds) for the Saturn V.


This would be pretty useful, because on top of the rocket Musk wants to have a large shuttle-like vehicle. This would transport 100 people or so at a time to Mars, landing on the surface, and then launching back when our two planets align for the shortest trip possible (roughly every 26 months).

The journey between our two planets usually takes about eight months, but Musk thinks he can get eventually get it down to a matter of weeks.

While there is no shortage of critics of Musk’s plan, it is an interesting idea nonetheless. And the excitement to learn more about it is understandable.

So when Musk hints in a six-word tweet that he might reveal more details in two months, well, that’s certainly going to get people talking. It’s just a shame he’s not so good at beach parties, eh.


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