With its massive Starship rocket, SpaceX which is a US-based aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services founded in 2002 is almost ready to begin developing a permanent human settlement on Mars.
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, said at the International Mars Society Convention, that the private spaceflight firm is on track to launch its first unmanned mission to Mars in as little as four years from now.
“I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window,” Musk said during the discussion.
The window Musk is referring to is a launch opportunity for a mission to Mars every 26 months. In July of this year, UAE, NASA and China all launched missions to Mars. Musk is referring to the 2024 Mars launch opportunity while the next window opens in 2022.
The mission will be launched on a SpaceX Starship vehicle to the Red Planet. Starship is a reusable rocket-and-spacecraft combo currently being built at the US facility of the business. SpaceX is also planning to use Starship for missions to the moon starting in 2022, as well as point-to-point trips around the Earth.
Settlement on Mars
Musk has long said that humans need to create a permanent and self-sustaining settlement on Mars to ensure that humans can survive just in case a nuclear war or asteroid strike makes planet Earth uninhabitable.
But SpaceX has no plans to build a Mars base. Its only goal as a transport company is to ferry cargo (and humans) to and from the Red Planet, enabling the establishment of someone else’s Mars base.
If Musk’s estimates are correct, SpaceX’s first Mars mission will be launched in the same year that NASA astronauts return to the moon under the Artemis program. But it is important to note that Musk is known for coming up with overly ambitious timelines. SpaceX is also planning to transport space tourists around the moon in 2023 on a Starship mission. NASA has also chosen SpaceX as one of three commercial teams to design moon landers for the Artemis program.
Musk said that SpaceX “would maybe have a shot at sending or attempting to send something to Mars in three years,” if it were not for the orbital mechanics that Mars launches are easier only every 26 months. “But the window is four years away, since it is in various parts of the solar system,” he said.
Musk announced plans in 2016 for SpaceX’s Starship concepts. The project aims to launch a spacecraft which is 165 feet (50 meters) on top of a giant booster for deep-space flights to the moon, Mars and elsewhere. Both the Starship and its Super Heavy booster would be reusable.
From its test site in the US, SpaceX launched two test flights of Starship designs, named SN5 and SN6, this year. Those flights reached a height of 150 meters (500 feet). Another Starship concept, dubbed SN8, is currently being planned by SpaceX for a 12-mile-high (20 kilometer) test flight in the near future.
International Mars Society Convention
The Mars Society’s four-day international conference brings together leading scientists, government policymakers, commercial space executives, science journalists and space advocates to discuss the latest scientific and technological developments and challenges related to the human and robotic exploration of Mars.