A Mars vehicle by next year?


 "Those hopper flights would go up to an altitude of several kilometers. "We'll do flights of increasing complexity," he said last month, including tests of heat shield technology.

Musk didn't provide new testing details in his SXSW interview, and offered a cautionary note about schedules. "People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic," he said. "So I'm trying to recalibrate to some degree here." That echoed his comments in Ausralia last year, where he described a schedule that called for the launch of the first BFR missions to Mars in 2022 "aspirational.

The interview covered a wide range of other topics, from his leadership of electric vehicle company Tesla to founding the tunneling startup The Boring Company to his concerns about artificial intelligence. He also stressed his worries about a war or other calamity setting back civilization on Earth, a motivation for establishing a presence on Mars."  space.com


The Big Falcon Rocket is Musk's space ship for the establishment of a first permanent colony on Mars.   He is building a vessel that will have a reusable first stage and a second stage that is the Mars lander.  He intends to start testing the second stage as a separate unit next year in what he call "hopper" jumps with flights of increasing difficulty proceeding to LEO flights fairly soon.   Because of the re usability factor a launch to LEO is expected to cost $6 million.  This is a low relative cost.  Interestingly he plans to produce fuel for the rocket and food for the crew on the surface of Mars.

At the same time he says he hopes that SpaceX' success in the Mars effort will bring more commercial players into this business.  pl  



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33 Responses to A Mars vehicle by next year?

  1. ambrit says:

    The plans for producing fuel and food on the surface of Mars are pure ‘Mars Direct’ scenarios. Fuel can be had by ‘cracking’ water into hydrogen and oxygen and storing the results. Food is doable given the water and fertilizers to use with protected Mars soils. The water and fertilizers can also support a hydroponics system for growing.
    If Musk floats the idea of using robotic probes to find water and set up ‘cracking’ plants before any people set foot on the surface of Mars, then he would be using the “Mars Direct” system pretty closely.
    This is an interesting step towards a multi creche template for humanity.
    For Mars Direct: http://www.marssociety.org/home/about/mars-direct/
    Here’s hoping.

  2. LeaNder says:

    Nitwit comment/babbling mode: i discovered recently that a constellation that fascinated me since childhood/teen days, but didn’t trust ever as grown up if I hadn’t made it up as constellation more arbitrarily–Never got further then easily recognizing “the great wagon” (German) Ursa Major, or Venus, the morning star–was indeed something people just like me seem to have been fascinated by since “times immemorial”:
    central startling constellation of Orion. Anyway.
    Mind you, my specific choice was quite selective. At least to that extend the grown up skeptic proved right:
    Of course Mars has the same esoterical/mythical deep roots in human history. US as Mars vs Europe as Venus? Planets versus stars.

  3. John Minnerath says:

    The Great Nebula in Orion as captured by Robert Gendler.

  4. Duck1 says:

    sounds like an adam and eve proposition, with a bunch of technology that weighs more than the meatspace
    sorry for lack of enthusiasm

  5. John Minnerath,
    Reference your photo at #3
    I always liked these shots. Are the colors manipulated after filming or are special filters used during the filming? I thought I read a NASA story about these photos not being naturally colored.

  6. turcopolier says:

    Fortunately people like you were not called to conquer North America. pl

  7. John Minnerath says:

    Yes the colors are adjusted during processing and any number of filters may be used in sequence to capture wave lengths of light for specific elements.
    This particular photo came from probably dozens taken over many hours and layered together digitally.
    The colors are a best guess and most agree that many of the wave lengths wouldn’t be visible to our eyes.
    Gendler is a master, he makes what I can do look like a kindergarden crayon drawing.

  8. Peter in Toronto says:

    I would give my life to the colonization of Mars, if given the opportunity. There is no greater pursuit for this species at this time; ensuring the inter-planetary viability of humanity is more interesting than squabbling about steel and tariffs back on the rotten Terra where half of the inhabitants live in poverty, superstition and are liable to believe in Abrahamic fairy tales from the Bronze age.
    Finishing the last installment of the Mars Trilogy by Kim Robinson, which describes the colonization, subsequent independence movement and creation of an entirely new, Martian society with its own economic and social structures.
    We’re closer than ever. I just wish the economy was more directed towards these goals. The economy is supposed to be a vehicle to elevate civilization, not the ultimate destination, which appears to be a corporatist oligopoly.

  9. paul says:

    whats the longest a human being has been outside the earths magnetic sphere?
    6-7 days or so.
    mars is months always and has not significant magnetosphere, i think do alot more test on a moon base where we can still get astronauts back to earth in a few ours when the fact that they are completely exposed to the solar winds cosmic rays etc.
    i don’t think it would be very helpful for space exploration when the first live shots from mars are a dozen or so astronauts all bleeding to death out of all their orifices.
    and there is my mandatory pessimism

  10. A Pols says:

    Sooo..A nuclear reactor to generate electricity for electrolysis of water and a gas liquefaction and storage plant? Anyone here want to run the numbers on minimum tonnage to LEO, then launch on intercept trajectory to Mars and get it to soft landing there?
    Just saying this would be a huge project. Easy to talk and dream about it, but who’s going to write the checks? The checks: Aye, there’s the rub.

  11. Leaky Ranger says:

    Last year Musk promised a manned mission to circumnavigate the moon by July 2018. That ain’t happening. No human is going to Mars in the lifetime of any reader of this blog.

  12. LeaNder says:

    TTG, JMHO, although based on interest in colors from very, very early on. Add to that the a more personal experience while photographing paintings or the arts, limits, no chance with some material present, and later discussions with a photographer and artist with a diploma in photography. He alerted me to the differences in material used at the time. Now its all digital of course. Although, maybe not. If so it had to be transferred to digial.

  13. LeaNder says:

    Great video, Sarah.

  14. Casey says:

    What about radiation? Has that problem been solved (outside of the Apollo missions, that is)?

  15. LeaNder says:

    No idea, if I am misguided but on first sight, this doesn’t seem to be connected. Admittedly I struggled between US and British spelling and gave up:
    too lazy to dig through all the links to check if I am wrong.

  16. ambrit says:

    Small nuclear reactors are old tech now. We’re not planning to send the Great Pyramid of Cheops to Mars. That would be like coals to Newcastle. Plus, this would be a robotic set up. No squishy humans to get fried by errant radiations. Indeed, a joint human robot mission with the humans hanging out on Phobos or Deimos and remote controlling the landers from Near Mars Orbit is doable.
    As for cheques, well, ever consider how much of basic research is funded by the government in one form or another? DARPA comes to mind. Tesla is proof positive of Musks’ abilities to suckle at the public teat. The volume of ‘tax incentives’ and other financial contortions involved with his present endeavours is impressive. Look at many ‘cutting edge’ technologies. The government plays Sugar Daddy to many for pragmatic reasons. Any new and successful technology developed here in America is good for the nation. Now, who wants to argue that establishing a human population off of the Terrestrial globe is bad for anybody?

  17. ambrit says:

    This is not my field of expertise but I have read that the old Soviet space program began working on the problems of deep space flight way back in the seventies. (Corrections by more knowledgeable readers is encouraged.) The present Russian space program is the carry on from the Soviet days. A continuity of skills and knowledge seems to be the case here.
    Several schemes to ‘beat’ the space radiation problem are theorized. What it needs now is old fashioned experimentation to find the most feasible methods.
    The hows are easy to ascertain. the will to do the work is what’s needed. If it takes a flamboyant entrepreneur to bring it off, then more power to him. We will all benefit in the long run.

  18. LeaNder says:

    John Minnerath,
    forgot to say thank you. Interesting man:
    I recall the special issue stamp apparently based on one of his images.

  19. John Minnerath says:

    A little more on the colors in deep space astrophotographs.
    Using the nebulae in Orion as an example, if we look at it through a telescope with our eyes; most adults will see clouds of green, children and a few adults can see the red shades. As we age our eyes sensitivity to color decrease and we will see only gray. That’s where my old eyes are now, where I once could see intense swirling clouds of a deep green, now all I can make out is dim shapes of gray.
    Then comes the camera, now days mostly digital. The camera allows long exposure capture and the colors begin to come out. Even the simplest cell phone camera held to a telescope eyepiece for a few seconds would start to show some red in the photo.
    The natural colors in deep space are shades of red, blue, yellow, and white.
    The skilled and experienced astrophotographer uses various filters to capture certain wavelengths and block others.
    The final result, which can take days of work, is a result he wants.
    To me some go too far with the intensities, I always like those with paler colors and the bright intensity of nearby stars allowed to show through.
    BTW, the spikes seen on brighter stars are caused by the secondary mirror supports in certain types of telescopes.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree with you.
    I have noted on this forum the un-viability of fetuses – human and otherwise – in any environment which does not closely mimic the gravitational and electromagnetic experienced by life at Earth’s surface – including the effect of tides on fertility etc.
    They need to ship a colony of simians to Mars to gauge the effects that I have been cautioning – but I cannot see any political leader stating:
    “I believe the time has come, for this nation, to put a bunch of monkeys on Mars in order to analyze the patterns of their copulation and gestation.”
    And his opponent in the next election cycle:
    “My fellow Americans, America does not need the Monkey President who spent tax payers’ money on shipping monkeys to Mars.”

  21. ambrit says:

    Just an additional subject related to a Mars Project would be this about human responses to isolation from external cues regarding day and night. Or, could people live with a different day night cycle?
    (Not trying to bulletin board the site Colonel. Apologies if I’m out of line.)
    See: http://www.alexanderkumar.com/portfolio/astronauts-in-caves-the-story-of-siffre/

  22. turcopolier says:

    would I have to do SST from the space ship? pl

  23. confusedponderer says:

    John Minnerath,
    I have always liked stars and watching stars, but here where I live there is a lot of ‘disturbing light’ from the city and one sees not that many stars.
    That changes with a good glass. Now I gave a chinese Celestron SkyMaster 15×70 binocular (decent optics for a fair price) and using that I see many more stars. Anyway, that’s just for my curiosity.
    But the first time I really saw the milky way, just with my eyes, was on a school ski travel in the alps in austria. We were at about 2000 metres and it was the first time I saw the milky way as what it was. I never had seen so many stars in the sky before. What a view.

  24. LeaNder says:

    now all I can make out is dim shapes of gray.
    John, that’s a riddle for me. At one point in time I looked into the biology of our perception. The eye. Would I find something there that explains what your may have in mind? It’s long ago.
    Admittedly my mind flees to other limited dots, leaving the eye behind. To sound, both difference while young where individual capacities end. And yes, for a very personal reason brainwaves. Wave clusters. Gone?
    Be well anyway. I have to admit, my favorite was always Orion Belt and Sword. But your reference to the Orion cloud helped me to understand some riddles beyond me limited perception capabilities.
    * …

  25. ambrit says:

    As the Siffre experience showed, internal time senses distort in unexpected ways. Hence my ‘late’ response.
    The big advantage for doing SST from “the spaceship,” would be a perceived ‘higher ground’ effect.
    “Take the high ground and make them come to you.”
    I believe that the Heinlein/Pournelle wing of the science fiction cadres used to have a limited issues per year magazine called “The High Frontier.” I’m of decidedly undecided opinion of that group, what with their ‘pushing’ of the dreaded “Star Wars” anti-missile defense scheme.
    Now the descendants of the “High Frontier” generation are pushing for weaponizing near Earth space, as did their forbears.
    It all started with this: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1985-05-02/features/8501270085_1_missile-defense-star-wars-authors
    As I mentioned a few weeks ago, what I’m worried about is if some “other” power gets to control near Earth space first and then gets to write the rules as to who or what gets to utilize the endless resources of our solar system.
    Can humans work up a truly multi cultural governing system that will work? I don’t have enough experience to say.

  26. fanto says:

    Paul @10
    Paul, why do you speculate on ´bleeding from all orifices´ on arrival on Mars? Just curious. Can you give me a hint?

  27. ambrit says:

    Well, the atmospheric pressure of Mars is said to be about 1% that of Earths’ atmosphere. The human body evolved to live and work in the terrestrial atmosphere, so, internal body pressure will cause hemorrhaging, especially in the lungs. Space suits of some sort will be needed to work on the Martian surface. Something like a skintight spandex suit with breathing support is envisioned.
    More on this: http://www.spacesafetymagazine.com/space-exploration/mars-mission/earthlings-martians-living-red-planet-affect-human-bodies/
    Some of the commenters to this piece mention the superiority of using space based habitats with artificial gravity, a la O’Neil L-5 designs.
    We are taking baby steps right now, but someone has to do it. It’s that or eventual extinction.

  28. John Minnerath says:

    LeaNder and others,
    The cones in our eye determine color and individual eyes vary quite a bit.
    I remember a woman who when looking through my 12.5 inch reflector would try to explain to me the bright red clouds she saw when looking at the Orion nebula.
    Her eyes saw colors few can.
    Generally speaking much comes into play when observing deep space objects.
    The sky conditions, surface brightness of the particular object, and aperture of the telescope used. The bigger the scope, the more light delivered to your pupil.
    Discussion of what colors are there has been discussed since the invention of color film began to reveal them.
    For those interested, here is a good article on the subject, one of many available.

  29. fanto says:

    Ambrit @29
    Thanks Ambrit for your explanation and the link; I was thinking about Paul’s (at #10) consideration of ‘bleeding from all orifices’ in context of the absence of magnetic field. Firstly, that absence would be noticeable by biologic organisms already a long way before reaching Mars, secondly – the lack of atmospheric pressure would never be an issue, because that is one of many “known unknowns” and it must be dealt with as you say with pressurized environment, a closed ecological system if you will. What cause me curiosity is the effect of magnetic field on the hemoglobin molecules in red blood cells, these have a strong magnetic relevance due to the atoms of iron. Is red blood cells adherence (in presence of thrombocytes) change after prolonged absence of magnetic field? – that is what I am curious about. –

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:

    And Dr. Linenger’s book about his experiences, titled “Off the Planet: Surviving Five Perilous Months Aboard the Space Station Mir” also provides medical observations – him being a flight surgeon.

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Thank you for supplying a concrete example of the issues that I had asserted earlier.

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