Finally, of course, the goal is to take people to Mars. The BFR would have 40 cabins inside its payload area, enough to take 100 people per flight to Mars. There would also be a solar storm shelter to protect from incoming radiation and some sort of entertainment area.
Musk wants to have two BFRs ready to launch by 2022. These would be cargo missions to the surface of Mars, to find water for future missions. Then in 2024, he wants to launch four BFRs, two cargo and two with crews, to Mars.
“That's not a typo,” Musk said as he unveiled the date to gasps from the audience. “I feel fairly confident we can complete the ship and be ready to launch in five years. Five years seems like a long time to me.”
It looks like Musk is now basically giving up on SpaceX's original Mars plans. Those entailed using a modified version of the existing Dragon vehicle, called Red Dragon, to touchdown. Instead, we'll now have this giant huge BFR thing, which seems a little bit like overkill for a practice cargo mission, but hey ho.
No Elon Musk talk would be complete without a flashy video, and he did not disappoint. He finished with a CGI video showing how BFR could take people around the world, essentially replacing planes. People travel on a boat to a sea pad, then launch to their destination. Safe? Umm. Cheaper than flying? Who knows.
It's hard not to get swept up in all the excitement. A cry of “You can do it Elon!” from the audience exemplified Musk's allure. But as always, there will be no shortage of detractors and critics this time around. The costs still seem unclear, and Musk is known for his rather ambitious timelines. Will the dream be enough?
“I think fundamentally the future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we're a space-faring civilization and a multi-planetary species than not," said Musk. "You want to be inspired by things, you want to wake up and think the future is going to be great. I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars."
If he does stick to his timeline and manage to launch a cargo mission to Mars by 2022, well, that'll certainly be pause for thought.