Photo: Just before sunset at 6:03pm ET on Wednesday, Feb. 11th, Falcon 9 lifted off from SpaceX’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. carrying the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite on SpaceX’s first deep space mission. Courtesy SpaceX Flickr.
Elon Musk, billionaire founder and CEO of SpaceX, has just publicly released “Making Humanity a Multi-Planetary Series,” his plan to colonize Mars, which he first revealed in the journal New Space during a conference in Mexico in September 2016. The plan is available for free on New Space’s website now through July 5.
“I think there are really two fundamental paths. History is going to bifurcate along two directions. One path is we stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some eventual extinction event. I do not have an immediate doomsday prophecy, but eventually, history suggests, there will be some doomsday event,” Musk explains. “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.”
Musk acknowledges that our options within the solar system are limited at this time exclusively to Mars, and reveals that NASA is well underway working on what it would take to colonize the planet.
At $10 billion per person, the cost of the trip is currently prohibitive. Howver with the use of the Interplanetary Transport System, a reusable rocket-and-spaceship combo that will be powered by SpaceX’s Raptor engine (still in development), the cost could be brought down to $200K per person, which Musk suggests is “roughly equivalent to a media house price in the United States.”
“Obviously, it is going to be a challenge to fund this whole endeavor,” Musk acknowledges. “We expect to generate a pretty decent net cash flow from launching lots of satellites and servicing the space station for NASA, transferring cargo to and from the space station. There are also many people in the private sector who are interested in helping to fund a base on Mars, and perhaps there will be interest on the government sector side to do that too. Ultimately, this is going to be a huge public–private partnership.”
The aim is to have a fleet of 1,000 spaceships, each carrying 100 people or more, depart every 26 months, when the Earth and Mars are favorably aligned in order to move 1 million people to the Red Planet over the next 400 to 100 years.
The bulk of the plan focuses on a discussion of vehicle design and performance, Raptor engine, rocket booster, interplanetary spaceship, propellant plant, and timelines. It also touches on future plans for exploration and colonization beyond Mars.
Musk explains, “Right now, we are just trying to make as much progress as we can with the resources that we have available and to keep the ball moving forward. As we show that this is possible and that this dream is real—it is not just a dream, it is something that can be made real—the support will snowball over time.”
We may see that support grow right before our eyes as plans become reality in a very short time. Earlier this year, SpaceX announced it will launch a crewed mission beyond the moon for two private customers in late 2018. Keep your eye on the Red Planet.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.