The private space company is well on its way to launching its first mission to Mars in just four years, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said at the International Mars Society Convention on Friday (October 16).“I think we have a chance to create this second Mars transfer window,” Musk said in a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. Here you can see a repetition of the lecture.
The window Musk is referring to is a launch opportunity that arises every 26 months for the mission to Mars. NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates launched missions to Mars in July this year. The next window will open in 2022. Musk refers to the launch opportunity for Mars in 2024.
The mission will be launched to the Red Planet in a SpaceX Starship vehicle, a reusable rocket and spaceship combo currently under development at the South Texas facility. SpaceX also plans to use Starship for missions to the moon and point-to-point trips around the earth from 2022.
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Musk has long said that humans need to establish a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars in order to ensure “the survival of consciousness as we know it” – just in case planet Earth is hit by nuclear war or an asteroid strike becomes uninhabitable.
SpaceX has no plans to actually build a Mars base, however. As a transportation company, its only goal is to move cargo (and people) to and from the Red Planet to facilitate the development of another’s Martian base.
“SpaceX takes on the biggest challenge, namely the transport system. All sorts of other systems are needed, ”said Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, during the congress.
“My personal hope is that we will see Starship in the stratosphere before this year’s out. If Elon is right, we’ll be in orbit next year or next, ”added Zubrin. “This will change people’s minds about what is possible. And then, you know, NASA will try to fund the remaining pieces of the puzzle, or entrepreneurs who will go forward to develop the remaining pieces of the puzzle. ”
If Musk’s projections are correct – he’s been known for offering over-ambitious schedules – SpaceX’s first Mars mission would kick off the same year that NASA astronauts return to the moon as part of the Artemis program. SpaceX also plans to fly space tourists on a spaceship mission around the moon in 2023. NASA selected SpaceX as one of three commercial teams to develop moon landers for the Artemis program.
Musk said Friday that without the orbital mechanics that calls for Martian launches every 26 months, SpaceX “might be trying to send or try something to Mars in three years,” Musk said, adding that Earth and Mars will not be in best position. “But the window is four years away because they are in different parts of the solar system.”
Musk revealed plans for SpaceX’s spaceship blueprints in 2016. The project aims to launch a 50 meter long spaceship on a massive booster for space missions to the moon, Mars, and elsewhere. Both the spaceship and its Super Heavy Booster can be reused.
That year, SpaceX launched two test flights of Starship prototypes, SN5 and SN6, from its test site in Boca Chica, Texas. These flights reached a height of 150 meters.
SpaceX is currently preparing another Starship prototype called the SN8 for a 20-kilometer test flight in the near future.
Email to Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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