Musk: Mars Colony Possible Within 20 Years; Starship Launch Below $3M

Produced by | Sohu Technology

Author | Zheng Songyi

Editor | Wang Yiqing

A few days ago, Elon Musk delivered a motivational speech at the Starship Rocket Garden in Texas, mainly focusing on the concept of a spacefaring civilization. The talk lasted 44 minutes.

The Urgency of Colonizing Other Planets

Musk noted that he is often asked if he has seen aliens, but to speak frankly, there is currently no evidence to prove their existence. This suggests that humanity might be alone in the universe.

He believes that the reason we may not have encountered extraterrestrial life is that human existence has thus far been confined to Earth, limiting our experiences and awareness. Should humanity become a multi-planetary species capable of living on various planets throughout space, Musk proposes that we might come across more signs of life.

“If historical records are correct, the universe is about 13.8 billion years old, with Earth clocking in at 4.5 billion years, while the dawn of human civilization could arguably be marked from the inception of written language just roughly 5,500 years ago. Civilizations like ours may be incredibly transient on a universal timescale. It is essential for us to extend to other planets and safeguard this flicker of civilization.”

Hence, Musk’s vision for humanity is to evolve into a multi-planetary species, not one restricted to a single planet. He hopes to turn science fiction into reality and make the concepts like Star Trek tangible.

The chief goal of SpaceX is precisely this mission: to extend life to other worlds sustainably, considering Mars a prime candidate.

“This would allow human life to persist on Mars in the event of another global conflict or catastrophic disaster on Earth. I believe that the plan to settle humans on Mars could be achieved in about 20 years.”

Musk: Starship’s Reusability Could Be Achieved Next Year

Musk shared, “The massive Starship production factory SpaceX is building is indeed key to the mission of colonizing Mars. Many might think it’s crazy, but it is happening, and it might turn out to be one of the most meaningful things we’ve done.”

To date, Starship has completed three test flights, specifically in April and November of 2023 and another in April of 2024, and has executed each better than the last.

Musk describes the fourth Starship test flight scheduled to take place in approximately a month, aiming to see the Super Heavy booster withstand the high-temperature phase and perform a soft landing on a virtual platform at sea.

If successful, SpaceX plans to catch the booster with a mechanical arm during Starship’s fifth test flight. The probability of reaching this milestone within the current year stands between 80%-90%. Musk anticipates that next year, they could achieve repeated reusability of Starship.

Many wonder, why Mars as the prime target for human settlement missions?

Musk explained there aren’t many viable options. Venus, with its extreme heat and high pressure, is uninviting, and the moon, while closer, lacks an atmosphere and has only one-sixth the gravity of Earth, making it less suitable.

Humorously, he added that another reason for bypassing the moon is its proximity to Earth—if a global war broke out on Earth, the moon could potentially become threatened by nuclear weapons, rendering it unsafe once again. In contrast, Mars is relatively farther away and thus considered safer.

“In the long-term perspective, we could warm Mars up, thicken its atmosphere, and potentially create an ocean covering about 40% of its surface, transforming it into an Earth-like planet.”

Regarding the development of Starlink, Musk suggests that a closer look at the pace at which Starlink is growing might be somewhat intimidating.

To date, over 6,000 Starlink satellites and 10,000 space lasers are operational, attracting nearly 3 million customers.

“Starlink has done great things for people, providing internet access to regions that were otherwise disconnected or where the service was prohibitively expensive. While we aim to improve Earth, we also want to ensure that the future inhabitants of Mars can enjoy high-bandwidth communication.”

Plans for Next Year

Musk states if everything goes accordingly, not only is SpaceX striving to achieve Starship’s reusability next year but they also aim to construct four more launch towers—two each at Starbase and Cape Canaveral, with the latter set for earlier operation.

Additionally, Musk’s plan includes the construction of six more boosters and six Starships. Next year is expected to see a significant increase in production efficiency, which is why they’re setting up the Super Heavy factory. The ultimate goal is to build even more spacecraft than boosters as ships reaching Mars in the future may be repurposed on-site.

He emphasized the need to rapidly increase Starship production, aiming to manufacture multiple ships per day and reduce each Starship’s launch costs to Earth orbit to between $2 million and $3 million USD.

Another key goal for next year revolves around achieving in-orbit refueling between Starships.

This step is crucial for the Mars missions as the spacecraft will require refilling after reaching orbit. Each mission to Mars will approximately need five to six refueling operations. This innovation is also vital for NASA’s Artemis program aimed at returning humans to the moon.

Musk remarks that expectations for Starship are climbing, with its performance seeing substantial advancements across various aspects. The Raptor engines initially had a thrust of 185 tons, with goals to surpass 330 tons, meaning the total liftoff thrust for Starship could reach 10,000 tons. Additionally, the third generation Raptors will be designed without the need for a protective cover.

Starship V3, expected to come a few years later, aims to transport 200 tons of cargo into orbit and achieve complete reusability.

Musk’s goal is to launch thousands of Starship missions to Mars every two years, helping establish a self-sustaining civilization and making the costs of relocating to Mars affordable for everyone—a day that might not be too far in the future.

Author: Zheng Songyi

This article is reposted with permission from Sohu Technology (ID: souhukeji). For reprints, please contact the original author. Feel free to forward to your social circles.

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