As a guest on the Colbert Report Thursday night, SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk explained his vision for the future of flight, and it draws directly from his revolutionary work on automobiles and spaceflight.
Musk’s most successful endeavors in recent years include the top selling and performing electric car ever assembled, and the first vertically landing rocket ever built. Now he wants to incorporate the key ideas of both into traditional flight. (RELATED: SpaceX Releases Video Of Its Reusable Rocket Landing [VIDEO])
“Aircraft should be vertical takeoff and landing, kind of like a Harrier, except that it’s better to move the fan than it is to duct the air,” Musk explained (amidst Colbert’s usual interjections). “I think the Harrier’s a great plane, but I think there’s a real opportunity to have a vertical take-off and landing supersonic jet.”
“You’d use an electric motor to drive a fan. Traditional jet aircraft are mostly fan driven, like when you see a high-bypass jet engine on a 777, it looks huge. That’s because most of the propulsion is really coming from the fan. So there’s some value to having ducts, but it’s actually more efficient to have an open fan if you just care about efficiency per mile. But you can go faster if you have a ducted situation.”
Musk went on to discuss his efforts toward deep-space travel to Mars and the importance he places on making humanity a multi-planet species in order to secure its survival and spark innovation.
“It’s sort of life insurance collectively,” Musk said. “That’s sort of the defensive argument. The one I find actually more interesting, or more motivating, is that it would be just the greatest adventure ever. And it would be really exciting and inspiring.”
“It is a fixer-upper of a planet, so its going to take some work, but its possible to transform Mars ultimately into an Earth-like planet.”