Multiplanetary Species?

Sep 27, 2019

Elon Musk discusses the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation focuses on the architectures for sustaining humans on the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

“We’re figuring out how to take you to Mars and build a self-sustaining city,” Musk told the crowd, “to become a truly multiplanetary species.”

But ‘right now you cannot go to Mars for infinite money’
Assuming the equipment to land people on Mars existed, Musk said “an optimistic cost number would be about $10 billion” — that’s per person.

“You can’t create a self-sustaining city on Mars for $10 billion a person,” he added.

4 elements could reduce the cost of getting to Mars
Musk said reducing the cost of ITS (and a ticket to Mars) will require a focus on four elements:

Full reusability — of the rockets, spaceships, and tankers
Refilling in orbit — to send up a lot of people at once
Propellant production on Mars — to keep launch weight and expenses much lower
Right propellant — people and equipment must be able to make fuel for a return flight on Mars

Musk thinks a ticket might cost as little as $100,000 per person

Musk said he hopes to reduce the cost 5,000,000% so that a ticket costs about $200,000, or roughly as much as a house. “This is not easy. It sounds virtually impossible, but I think there are a variety of ways through it,” he said.

As more missions get to Mars, and more spaceships are made, he expects the cost could be as little as $100,000 per person. Musk cited a figure$140,000 per ton.

“So if the person and their luggage, life support, and consumption” is accounted for, he said, “ultimately it could drop below $100,000.”

A trip to Mars on ITS will take about 80 days
But Musk says that’s just to start.

“Ultimately, I’d suspect you’d see Mars transit times of as little as 30 days in the distant future,” he said, noting it’s a lot different than the 6-months-or-more time estimates that are often passed around.

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