Musk hints details of SpaceX Mars project

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The competition heats up: In an interview with the Washington Post this week, Elon Musk gave some more hints at his company’s future plans to send its Dragon capsules to Mars.

“Essentially what we’re saying is we’re establishing a cargo route to Mars,” [Musk] said. “It’s a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It’s going happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station. And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it’s going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments.”

The key to Musk’s effort is that he plans on doing it. He isn’t sitting around waiting for others, or trying to convince others to join him in a partnership before proceeding. He is simply doing it, and is welcoming others to take advantage of the opportunity he is offering.


  • D. Engelhardt

    I will be surprised if he doesn’t land something on the moon first.

  • Scott J

    Why do you think that?

  • Scott J

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there will be a lot of commercial opportunities for falcon heavy to send “stuff” to the moon, maybe even for NASA. But he seems laser focussed on Mars to the exclusion of any other destination.

  • PeterF

    I suspect he is focused on Mars not only because of the novelty (moon, been there, done that) but also because of the economics. A mission to mars will cost only slightly more than a mission to the moon. A cost which will only be incurred every two years because of orbital mechanics (damn unions!). Mars missions may not be financially lucrative at first so any losses can be absorbed by SpaceX and written off as a business loss. Successful missions to Mars will improve the Cachet of the company as the prime cargo mover of the solar system. Cargo missions to the moon and asteroids will be a VERY profitable endeavor. Elon Musk will go down in history as the man who opened up the solar system. As important in History as Goddard, The Wright brothers, Von Braun, etc, etc.
    We are on the cusp of an historical era. Hopefully we can resist the socialists who threaten to destroy our civilization with their stupidity long enough so that a future among the expanse can be realized.

  • Alex

    Peter F: There is also a chance left, that Elon Musk will go down in history as a new Howard Hughes. I see clearly parallels. It is my strong believe that settlement at Mars make no sense regarding the real existent Mars. Maybe in 1,000 years, if Mars is terraformed. I hope Musk will be successful with his launcher reuse plans, but we have to wait and see how the reuse process is going to develop. It is to earlier to say what result is in economic terms. Just collecting used stages is only the very first beginning. Let see what is status in 3-5 years from now.

  • wayne

    Howard Hughes?
    -Please expand on that thought, I’d like to hear more.
    (I agree that settling Mars is a long term proposition, the Moon however, is “right next door.”)
    Musk is already proving the economics, big time! The minute they re-use any of those 1st stages, his fixed launch-costs drop substantially. (Is not SpaceX the low-cost provider right now?? or at least in certain segments?)

    You are definitely onto something, with that thought!

    Inquiry…reference: orbital-mechanics, (and their damn Union! HAR) are there launch-windows, geometry, & physics, which allow for “dropping stuff off at the Moon,” while en-route to Mars? Is something like that, physically do-able?

  • Cotour

    Q: If Mars has no or of little consequence magnetic field, which is what provides earths protective shield and apparently is what allows the earth to be so rich in life, then what can be the long term terraforming or settlement / open surface living prospects be for any life form?

    Are there any existing plants that can withstand the radiation?

  • Scott J

    I can’t wait for September/October when that SES satellite (probably) is sitting on top of the F9-RL 1 (entirely my acronym, feel free to use it Elon if you’re reading this). When that baby launches we will feel the collective shudder from board rooms and governments from Moscow to Paris to Washington.

  • wodun

    One of Musk’s recent interviews kept the possibility open for lunar activities but as a service they would provide to others while keeping the company’s target Mars.

  • wayne

    –this came up a few months ago but I can’t readily find it. I’ll take a stab, but more rightly one of those hi-IQ reader questions or further search at BtB!

    Upside to Mars is that it has an atmosphere, albeit only a fraction of Earth. (enough of an atmosphere to matter for landing, but not enough to breath & not a lot of oxygen.)
    (Mars sky has an orange tinge due to “rust,” in contrast to our blue sky, due to water-vapor.)
    Downside is lack of magnetic-field, but it’s further away from the Sun than the Earth, so there’s a different range of radiation & differing amounts. (I think the trip is more dangerous as far as radiation exposure, than being on the surface, but I don’t know that for a fact.) [this did come a few months ago.]
    Magnetic field on Earth is essential to our life partly because of our distance from the Sun, it’s not necessarily a requirement on other worlds.
    As to “terra-forming,” that’s way over my pay-scale, and, I think (?) beyond our present technology, but others know way more than me, as to the processes & end points one would try for.
    Humans would & will need, a controlled environment, for the foreseeable future.
    That being said, we have “life” on Earth that exists in very hostile conditions, (which we don’t fully understand) and/but, given the temperature, pressure, radiation, etc., etc., on Mars, any type of “life” is going to fall into a configuration we don’t fully understand. (native or otherwise)
    And introducing anything along those lines, is way into the future & fraught with problems.

  • Edward

    Alex and Cotour,
    Many people are working on ways to colonize Mars without having to terraform it first. The more that I read on the topic, the more I believe that private companies, not governments, will be the first to colonize both Mars and the Moon — colonizing in order to sell products and materials to each other and especially to Earth.

    A 20-year old book, “The Case For Mars” discusses possible solutions for colonization, but other ideas also are kicking around.

    I agree, cargo missions to and from the Moon may very well be profitable. ULA is already thinking that within 30 years we may have quite an industry in cislunar space (between the Earth and the Moon): (7 minutes)

    Musk may get the credit for opening up the solar system, but that would be because he opened it up to many others who also had good ideas that depended upon his inexpensive way to get off the Earth.

  • Cotour

    Interesting points, thanks.

  • LocalFluff

    Mars could be given an atmosphere without magnetic field, by replenishing it as fast as it escapes to space, by evaporating the polar caps and subsurface frozen volatiles. It could last as long as humanity lasts, which is enough. Could be done on the Moon too, more than half of its mass is oxygen and there’s plenty of sunshine to liberate it. But I doubt terraforming is a rational idea. More affordable to live indoors. Earth has been uninhabitable for us during about 90% of its history. But maybe we should farmform Mars, growing some crop under its surface and giving it a thicker CO2 atmosphere for heating. But Eden is here and now and nowhere else ever.

  • Alex

    To Wayne, Edward and Cotour: Come on wake up “boys”, you are adult men. Mars’ atmosphere is so thin (less as 1% of our air pressure) that it compare practically better to a vacuum as to our air. That fact alone kills all real settlement plans. Who would like to live in a pressurized container for rest of his life? Never be able to smell and taste the Mars itself? I assume only crazy people or criminals. We have also there strong radiation there and a much smaller gravity (only 38%, nobody knows the effect over time). We have a also toxic surface at Mars (perchlorates). Every place at Earth (even in worst dessert or at Antartica) provides much, much better conditions for living and surving as Mars surface.

  • Alex

    Wayne: Howard Hughes (so far I learned from video documentation and movies) displayed similar eccentric personality as Musk. He was also a self-made billionaire, guided by his visions, dedicated to many technology fields and huge projects. He became at the end of his life mental ill, symbolized by the fact that he divided himself more and more from public and used to collect his own urine in bottles in his apartment.

  • pzatchok

    One of the best things he could place on the surface of Mars would be a system to extract water out of the atmosphere. If possible.

    The next would just be large water tanks already full of water.

    With enough fuel couldn’t a Dragon capsule be used to reach orbit? If it could be refueled.

  • LocalFluff

    Dragon cannot carry enough fuel to lift off, it needs an ascent stage of some kind, a smaller version of a Falcon 9. It might in principle be able to “hop” a bit, but that would be uneconomical compared to surface transports. There is a lack of hydrogen on Mars. It has to be brought or extracted from water ice. And I do not really see what fuel produced on Mars would be used for. A crewed lander should carry its ascent stage fully fueled to allow for an aborted landing. And what else would be launched from Mars other than the crew? Fuel cells for machinery is no better than storing the solar power in batteries. One could methane and oxygen from Mars atmosphere using just an airpump instead of mining equipment, but what use would it have?

  • Cotour

    Goods points all.

    Other than the monumental accomplishment of getting there and successfully landing, doing some investigations and coming home, and surviving the trip to boot, what in the long term is getting to Mars about? You know, until humans develop a Star Ship Enterprise and warp drive to tool around in.

  • wayne

    I fully support robotic exploration of Mars. Sending people is a bit impractical, no matter how romantic it might appear.
    That being said, as long as it’s not my tax-money, I’m all for Musk doing his thing.

    What we really need? — To learn how to take Moon rock & turn it into a building material, in-place, that will self-cure, into a strong, air-tight substance. First thing we need on the Moon is habitat & concurrently an ability to extract/create oxygen/water source. Everything else is in the realm of wishful speculation at this point in time.

    TOTAL tangent– you catch any of this Muslim Extremist Terrorism going on in Florida?? Apparently 50 are dead & the network news is trying very hard to NOT tell us it was an TERRORIST ATTACK against a GAY BAR.
    On CNN right now, there is some Muslim spokes-hack from an ethnic/religious HATE GROUP, telling me that it wasn’t as Islamic Terrorist attack against gays.
    (I’m sure it was just a “lone wolf” again…..)

  • Cotour

    To the subject at hand: I came accross a “fact” that the moon contains 10 X’s as much Titainium as the earth?

    To your second subject, I just constructed this email that I send out to a select (20 or so) friends on the subject, and a bit more. The question is not why Trump should be president, but why Hillary should not.

    Its titled: Why Hillary need not win the 2016 presidential election:

    She is Obama with just a little bit more estrogen and bigger testicles.


    Orlando night club shooting by what appears to a radicalized Muslim who is the son of Pakistani parents. Obama can not say the words “radical Islam” or “radical Muslim”.


    Obama flooding the country with un-vetted individuals from the Mid East. Although we do have compassion for these people and their plight, we however are not required to commit national suicide by just allowing all comers to enter our country, there are other solutions to this problem.


    The Obama administration encourages and in fact participates in the illegal entry into our country of again, un-vetted individuals who can be coming from any part of the world.

    Oh yeah, and don’t forget this, she is bought and paid for and will do the bidding for all those who would destroy Americas sovereignty and hollow out our Constitution. : “Goldman Sachs has two senior representatives on Bilderberg’s steering committee: James A. Johnson, a board member of the bank, and Robert Zoellick, the chairman of Goldman Sachs’ board of international advisors. We know from Charity Commission accounts that Goldman Sachs, along with BP, is one of the key funders of the group, and we also know that they’ve been pumping “a substantial six-figure sum” into the Remain campaign. And Goldman Sachs doesn’t spend money lightly. The Remain campaign is clearly close to whatever they have instead of a heart.” From another article: ” The decision for Blankfein to invest in Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law’s company is just one of many ways Goldman Sachs has used its wealth to forge a tight bond with the Clinton family. The company paid Hillary Clinton $675,000 in personal speaking fees, paid Bill Clinton $1,550,000 in personal speaking fees, and donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. At a time when Goldman Sachs directly lobbied Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the company routinely partnered with the Clinton Foundation for events, even convening a donor meeting for the foundation at the Goldman Sachs headquarters in Manhattan.”

  • LocalFluff

    The Dragon has more mass than the sum of everything which has been landed on Mars thus far, the rovers, Viking, Soviet landers which failed. It is a big step for Mars exploration. But an Apollo lander weighted about twice that again.

    Elon Musk’s schedule is crazy. Falcon Heavy hasn’t even been assembled yet. I think that 2024/5 will be a robotic sample return with a red Dragon when the next rover has had time to collect it. And a manned landing in 2033 which offers a favourable conjunction giving the crew months shorter travel time (time spent on Mars instead) than at the average conjunction.

  • Cotour

    I just read that the night club that was attacked was a gay night club. That is one thing that these Islamic extremists do not understand and have made a fatal mistake in doing, singling out gays. They have signed their own death warrant.

    This alone may cost Hillary, who intends to continue Obama’s policies which in fact fosters and encourages such violent actions, the election.

  • wayne

    (We need a new thread for this terrorist attack on gay people.)
    -I’ve about had my fill of CNN/FOX for today, and it is amazing how the news media is contorting this TERRORIST attack, like a pretzel, and they already dragged out the TERRORIST apologist spokes-hack.
    He’s busily explaining how Islam loves gay people (and woman) ((and dogs))
    I watched a good hour of news reporting this AM, & it wasn’t until I went on-line that I discovered it WAS a Muslim terrorist attack, against a gay bar.

  • Cotour

    I have a leg up on you, I do not watch commercial or cable news / TV shows. That will scramble your brain and thought process, as it is designed to do.

  • wayne

    Cotour: No doubt!
    I stopped watching FOX last November/December & just watch local-news on the TV. >Greatly simplified my life. (If I need to watch anyone speak, I go to C-Span.)

  • Edward

    Alex wrote: “Who would like to live in a pressurized container for rest of his life? ”

    You may want to keep up with the latest “insanity” on the topic. There were plenty of volunteers for Mars One Project. Then again, plenty of people would like to colonize the Moon, which has many of the same problems as Mars. Do not make the mistake of assuming that everyone is the same as yourself; different people have different needs and desires, and some may not mind living under a dome.

  • wayne

    I thought I just read about a project recently, just ended, where 6 people lived in a controlled environment for 30 days, simulating the duties & general conditions of a trip into space. (I believe it was a NASA sponsored thing.)

    As for living inside “domes”—psychologically speaking there is a minimum height of an artificial sky (and associated lighting–illumination–schemes) where people lose the feeling they are “inside a dome.”
    In a slightly different dimension– certain spacing’s of windows help to alleviate a confined feeling as well.
    Those type of engineering considerations will be important, whether it’s the Moon or Mars.

  • Edward

    There are crews who work on submarines for months at a time without ever getting out on deck or looking out a window. We had an astronaut and a cosmonaut spend almost an entire year aboard the ISS. Living in confined spaces for long periods is not impossible, psychologically, and some people may desire the adventure of colonizing another world. Mars and the Moon need not be completely confining, as they have easy access to the surface and plenty of reasons to go out onto the surface.

  • wayne

    thanks. Submarines are a great example for Space.

    This might have been what I was thinking about–
    –I thought I saw something about a more space-capsule size experiment done recently.

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