Tech billionaire Elon Musk published plans Wednesday for building a 1-million-person city on Mars as soon as 2020.
Musk published his paper, titled “Making Humanity a Multi-Planetary Species,” online on the site New Space, laying out his plan to send humans to Mars in the near future. Musk is also the founder of SpaceX, a private rocket company.
“In my view, publishing this paper provides not only an opportunity for the spacefaring community to read the SpaceX vision in print with all the charts in context, but also serves as a valuable archival reference for future studies and planning,” Scott Hubbard, New Space’s editor-in-chief and NASA’s former “Mars czar,” said in a statement.
Musk’s plan centers around building a reusable rocket and spaceship that he calls the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). This system would be capable of sending about 10 people to Mars. Flying multiple ITS craft to Mars would allow colonists to quickly set up an outpost.
Over the next 40 to 100 years, such an outpost could grow into a large self-sustaining city, housing at least 1 million people and creating a self-sustaining civilization on Mars. Animations shown by SpaceX even suggest that the company plans to start terraforming Mars, making it more Earth-like.
Musk’s ITS rocket will be about 400 feet tall, potentially making it the largest rocket in history. The report repeatedly depicts the rocket as larger and more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that NASA sent to Earth’s moon. It should be capable of sending 450 tons of cargo to Mars. Musk has disclosed very few technical details about the rocket, other than saying that it will be capable of traveling beyond Mars.
“There is a huge amount of risk,” Musk wrote. “It is going to cost a lot. There is a good chance we will not succeed, but we are going to do our best and try to make as much progress as possible.”
Even though he admitted it would be an extremely expensive undertaking, Musk said that he’ll sort out the financial issues later, potentially by convincing NASA to fund him. Musk plans to send the first missions to Mars in 2018 or 2020.
Musk’s plan is supposed to drastically cut the cost of sending a person to Mars from $10 billion to roughly $200,000. He doesn’t specify how he’d do it, only noting that fully reusable rockets, orbital refueling and production of rocket fuel on Mars would be involved.
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