Elon Mars Colonization Takeaway: 2016 May Be the Last Year We Don’t Launch Commercial Missions to Mars


During the course of a wide ranging interview on stage at the Code Conference 2016 in Broomfield, Colorado,  SpaceX founder and CTO Elon Musk gave a bit of preview regarding his Mars colonization plans which will be revealed in September at the International Astronautical Congress in Monterrey, Mexico.

While he was reluctant to give any further details regarding the Mars Colonial Transporter, the giant,  methane-powered rocket which will be used to haul “lots of people and millions of tons of cargo” to the Red Planet, it was the schedule for doing so which came as bit of surprise. If everything goes to plan, Musk believes the first crewed mission could launch in 2024, with arrival the next year.

Anyone who has followed Musk’s past predictions understands that the time scale is the one part which rarely goes as planned, ie, he is always optimistic, but the specific year of first landing may be the least important detail of all.

What really matters is that driven by Musk’s vision, SpaceX is planning on regularly launching spacecraft to the Red Planet at each available opportunity in the 26 month cycle determined by orbital mechanics.

Musk: “The basic game plan is that we’re going to send a mission to Mars with every Mars opportunity from 2018 onwards,” adding that “We’re establishing cargo flights to Mars that people can count on.”

First off the the pad will be the Red Dragon mission which the company hopes to launch in 2018. Even if that date turns out to be overly optimistic, as well it might be, the salient point is that once the first SpaceX rocket departs Earth for Mars, it will likely be followed by another, and then another, every two years or so, until Mars is indeed occupied.

To put it another way, the current launch 2016 window, one which NASA missed with its own delayed InSight Mars lander by the way, could very well be the last one ever that does not include a commercially funded mission intended to advance or support human settlement.

Other highlights from the discussion:

SpaceX plans to begin re-launching recovered Falcon 9 stages this summer

Falcon Heavy is still on track to make its maiden voyage by the end of the year.

Musk envisions 3 month trips to Mars as an acheivable goal

Posted in: Mars, SpaceX

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5 Comments on "Elon Mars Colonization Takeaway: 2016 May Be the Last Year We Don’t Launch Commercial Missions to Mars"

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  1. Keith Pickering says:

    Expect the maiden voyage of Falcon Heavy to be a non-commercial test flight, possibly of a spectacular nature. For example: lofting a Dragon around the Moon on a free-return trajectory would also provide a high-speed test of the heat shield.

  2. PK Sink says:

    “Musk envisions 3 month trips to Mars as an acheivable goal”

    I can’t wait to see what that’s all about.

  3. Art says:

    I wonder if NASA knew what they were unleashing when they awarded SpaceX the first COTS contract for cargo, thus, saving Musk & his company from bankruptcy. Then, choosing them for CCiCAP over ATK’s Liberty rocket & their facsimile Orion capsule. Clearly, NASA wouldn’t be talking about putting experiments on a Red Dragon and we wouldn’t have a vehicle capable of propulsive landing on other worlds. I think NASA has been waiting years for Boeing or Lockheed to take the initiatives that SpaceX is doing.

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