Folks may recognize the name SpaceX, the private aerospace company that in May of last year launched a module into space to resupply the International Space Station. An historic occasion, that was the first time a private spacecraft has has ever docked with the ISS, and signaled a growing trend in the development in commercial space travel. Well, it seems that the company’s founder has more ambitious plans now.
Yes, in a bid to make sure his company is not left behind in any future space endeavors, CEO and billionaire Elon Musk has announced plans to colonize the Red Planet with a population of 80,000. The announcement came back in November at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, where Musk appeared to receive the Society’s gold medal for helping to advance the commercial space industry.
The first phase of the program, which is contingent on the development of reusable rocket that can take off and land vertically, would start off modestly with only a handful of explorers leaving Earth at a time. To make it happen, SpaceX has already started to work on their next-generation reusable Falcon 9 rocket, known as “Grasshopper”. This rocket has already made two short flights, including one in which it reached a height of 2 meters (6 feet), and another in which it leaped to a height of 5.4 meters (17.7 feet). Small beginnings, as they say!
The projected cost for each colonist looking to make the trip would be roughly $500,000. In short, those who are not rich or extremely adventurous need not apply! What’s more, he estimated that the entire program would cost about $36 billion, an inevitable expense to set up the initial infrastructure and transport. But once that is done, he believes enough people will be interested and find it within their means that the venture will pay for itself.
In an interview with Space.com, Musk’s vision for sending people to Mars was described as follows:
“Accompanying the founders of the new Mars colony would be large amounts of equipment, including machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars’ atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet’s subsurface water ice.
“The Red Planet pioneers would also take construction materials to build transparent domes, which when pressurized with Mars’ atmospheric CO2 could grow Earth crops in Martian soil. As the Mars colony became more self sufficient, the big rocket would start to transport more people and fewer supplies and equipment.”
So save your pennies and prepare for the day when tickets go on sale! Hard to say exactly when that will be, but chances are, it will be either feasible or abandoned by 2030. That’s when NASA plans to mount manned missions to the Red Planet. And like I said, men like Musk don’t want to be left behind!