Sydney - Entrepreneur
Elon Musk, who envisions a human colony on Mars, is planning to create a
new, much larger rocketship code named “BFR” capable of traveling
anywhere on Earth in under an hour.
If the concept becomes reality, a journey from New York to Shanghai
can be completed in about 30 minutes. The surprise announcement means
Space Exploration, which has already disrupted the
aerospace industry with reusable launches, plans to ferry humans not
just to distant planets but across this one as well.
“If we are going to places like Mars, why not Earth?” Musk said
Friday at the 68th International Astronautical Congress on Friday in
Adelaide, Australia. Animation played on a big screen behind him,
showing scores of people getting on a high-speed ferry in New York, then
boarding the BFR. The spaceship then headed for Shanghai.
Musk said that SpaceX, which has launched 13 rockets so far this
year, aims to complete 30 missions for customers next year. SpaceX has
many commercial satellite operators as customers, and the revenue from
those contracts will help fund the development of BFR, which will also
help set up a base on the Moon.
Musk, 46, has a
net worth of more than $20bn and has said in the past he’d use his
own personal assets to help fund his vision. He
detailed his Mars plans in a talk at the IAC in Guadalajara, Mexico, a
year ago and later published a paper about it, generating enormous
excitement but raising concerns it included few details on financing.
Musk promised his Twitter followers this summer his updated Mars plan
would address the lack of payment details -- which he called “the most
fundamental flaw” in his first take.
had talked about sending an unmanned "Red Dragon" spacecraft to Mars in
2018. The new plan calls for the first BFR to land on Mars in 2022,
followed by crewed missions in 2024.
Musk, who’s also CEO of electric-car maker
Tesla, founded SpaceX in 2002 with the ultimate goal of enabling
people to live on other planets. The closely-held space exploration
company flies its Falcon 9 rocket for customers that include NASA,
commercial satellite operators and the US military. The Hawthorne,
California-based company also has plans to launch its own satellite
The cost of a Falcon 9 launch is roughly $62m, according to
SpaceX’s website, with modest discounts available for contractually
committed, multi-launch purchases. SpaceX’s rockets are designed for
reuse, with rocket reusability now seen as key to making space travel
affordable. SpaceX celebrated its
first launch using a previously flown booster in March.
On top of the 13 launches in 2017, SpaceX has several more missions
on its manifest for the remainder of the year. The company expects to
demonstrate later this year the first test flight of Falcon Heavy, a far
more powerful rocket capable of heavy payloads and sending paying space
tourists on a flight around the moon.
Mars is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Mars exploration got
an enormous boost in August 2012, when NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed on
the red planet. The robotic vehicle continues to transmit breathtaking,
high-resolution photographs of the dune-and butte-filled landscape to
the delight of scientists and Curiosity’s 3.8 million Twitter followers.
Still, human colonisation of Mars won’t be easy. Getting to the Red
Planet will take several months, with unknown risks to the human body
and psyche. Even if space explorers survive the 155 million-mile journey
and subsequent first-ever manned landing, they would need to get to
work immediately to create a habitable atmosphere and produce the fuel
needed to propel the rocket ship homeward.
Musk has a busy agenda while in Australia. Later on Friday, he will
attend a Tesla Energy event at a wind farm. Tesla’s selling its
batteries to utilities eager to find ways to integrate renewables like
solar and wind with their electric grids.
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