Elon Musk's Plan To Colonise Mars, As It Happened

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"Headed to Adelaide soon to describe new BFR planetary colonizer design in detail @IAC2017. This should be worth seeing. Design feels right." - Elon Musk

Musk is announcing something big, alright. And we're along for the ride, right here, as it happens.

Everyone is waiting for Elon to arrive:

Here's How To Watch Elon Musk's Mars Colonization Announcement In Adelaide Today

'.Billionaire whiz kid Elon Musk, who last year announced his plan to send a group of astronauts either incredibly brave or incredibly eager to get off this dumb planet to colonize Mars, is poised to give a big update on those plans today..'

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2:25pm AEST:

Okay, we're here and waiting. What do you think Elon's newest plans will entail? A selection process for the people who will put together his martian colony, maybe?

Here's a refresher for what he's in the works got so far.

At last year's International Astronautical Congress meeting, Musk said he saw two paths for humanity. "One path is to stay on Earth forever, and there will be some extinction event. The alternative is to become a multi-planetary species, which I hope you will agree is the right way to go."

The rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral's Launchpad 39a with 13031 tonnes of thrust behind it. After stage separation, the spaceships parks in orbit while the booster returns to Earth — where it lands. A propellant tanker is loaded onto the booster to refuel the spaceship in orbit for its trip to Mars. The tanker returns to Earth and the spaceships heads for Mars. The solar arrays deploy and the ships coasts out on its to finally enter Mars’ orbit. The ship lands on the Martian surface and then we get a glimpse of the astronauts looking out onto the Martian plains.

Then the colonising begins. The plan involves 1,000 ships, with 200 people per ship. Musk says it would take 40 to 100 years for a "self-sustaining city" to establish itself on Mars. So when can we book a flight and exit this Earth? 2023. Maybe. Musk floated the date, but didn't make any promises.

According to Musk, it would normally cost $10 billion per person to get to Mars. He's gotten the price down to $200,000 (Musk aims to eventually get that down further to $100,000) by making meeting four key criteria: reusable spacecraft, re-fueling in orbit, producing propellant on Mars and choosing the right fuel. That fuel? Methane, which is readily available on Mars.

Musk says being on the spaceship itself will be "like, really fun to go — you'll have a great time." The plan is to make the 80 day (and eventually as little as 30 day) trip as comfortable as possible.

But when you get there, how will you... well, live? There wasn't a whole lot of detail revealed, other than the concept of the spaceship being re-used for building materials — including who would build and maintain the colony. "The goal of SpaceX is really to build the transport system," Musk reiterated.

Funding for the project was also discussed at length, which Musk admitted would be "a challenge".

"I know there's a lot of people in the private sector interested in funding a trip to Mars," he said, "hopefully there will be interest in the government side as well."

So after Mars, what's next? "If we have a propellant depot, you can go from Mars to Jupiter, no problem," Musk said. "It means full access to the entire greater solar system."


2:30pm AEST:

*taps foot*

2:36pm AEST

Elon founded SpaceX in 2012 with the goal of revolutionising space technology. Today he's giving an update.

SpaceX was the first private company to deliver cargo to the ISS, we are told.

Elon is talking about becoming a multiplanet species, you guys. How cool does that sound?

2:40pm AEST

The code name for this project is "BFR". And he's figured out how to pay for it.

The plan is to make the current vehicles redundant. One booster and ship will be made to replace Falcon 9, Heavy and Dragon. All the resources for those then, can be applied to the new system. Elon calls this move "fundamental".

Cool, cool - but what progress has been made?

This thing has more pressurised volume than an A380.

It was tested up to the design pressure - and went a little further. It shot 300ft into the air, and fell into the ocean.

"Now we have a pretty good sense how to make a carbon fibre tank that can hold cryogenic liquid", Elon says. It's crucial for building a light spaceship.

Now for the engine.

The raptor engine will be the highest thruster rate of any engine ever made, Elon says.

The firing of the engine is about 40 seconds - what you need to land on Mars.

Next up is propulsive landing.

To land without runways or atmosphere is pretty tricky. Bit of an understatement, but you get it.

You have to get it perfect, Elon says.

Falcon 9 is practicing this - 16 successful landings have happened in a row now - with a single engine. The goal is to amp up the number of engines, to increase the safety and reliability.

Elon says the precision of the landing is so precise the spaceship won't even need legs - it will land on it's launch mounts.

And this is going to be happening a lot, Elon says. Half of all launches on Earth could be from SpaceX next year.

To refuel the spaceship in orbit, docking needs to be precise. We all know this from every sci-fi movie ever.

Dragon One is working on this - Dragon Two launches next year, though and can dock with the ISS completely automated - no human intervention at all.

Dragon is also helping perfect the heat shield technology.

HISTORY LESSON TIME

"We started off with a few people who didn't really know how to make rockets" Elon says.

The reason he ended up being the chief designer is because he couldn't hire anyone!

"I messed up the first three launches", says Elon "Fortunately the fourth launch worked - it was the last money we had".

It's been four years now since that launch.

"It's been a pretty emotional day, really." Naw.

Falcon 1 is a lot smaller than Falcon 9.

Falcon Heavy is hopefully launching at the end of this year. For what was originally just going to be a couple of Falcon 9s strapped together, Space X had to redesign everything to take the increased loads, and took a lot longer than anticipated.

Now here's BFR!

There's 31 raptor engines on this beast, producing a thrust of 5,400 tonnes, lifting a 4,400 tonne vehicle.

It's like is Falcon 9 (upper stage) and Dragon were combined, Elon says.

Elon says he tried to ditch the Delta wing, but it was needed for landing.

Now we're getting into the guts of this thing.

The BFR can land with either of those two centre engines.

And just look at this, folks:

Everything is getting cheaper, and Elon says the key is resusability.

"It's really crazy that we build these sophisticated rockets, then crash them every time they fly!"

This reusability is extending to the refuelling tactic SpaceX is taking. The cost of refilling the spaceship in orbit is "tiny", Elon says.

But how do we pay for it?

We're about to find out.

"If we can build a system that cannibalises our own products, makes our own products redundant, then all our resources can be applied to one system."

The plan is to build ahead, and have a stock of Falcon 9 and Dragon rockets for people to travel in - tried and tested spacecraft (by that point), then all the resources will go to BFR when they are scrapped.

Launching satellites and servicing the ISS is going to bankroll it, Elon says.

You see, BFR can launch satellites up to nine metres wide. It could even collect space debris.

Space X is going to collect space junk, you guys.

Here's what it will look like servicing the ISS.

This thing is huge.

ENTER THE LUNAR BASE

"It's 2017," Elon says, "We should have a lunar base by now."

Mars though.

You have to refill the tanks on Mars.

"There isn't some way to make an electric rocket, I wish there was".

Because Mars has an atmosphere, you can remove all the energy from the incoming craft aerodynamically.

I must say, Elon is getting more relaxed as this presentation goes on.

The tooling for the main tanks has been ordered, construction will begin in six to nine months. Elon reckons it will be ready to launch to Mars in five years.

2022 will see the launch of two cargo ships, looking for water, identifying hazards and putting in infrastructure for the next flight.

"That seems like a long time to me," Elon says.

Every two years we have a chance to fly to Mars, so in 2024, four more ships will be launched. Two of them will be manned.

From the six ships, the propellant depot will be built. From there, the "city" will grow. I still want to know who is going to build it.

"Over time, we will terraform Mars, and make it a really nice place to be," Elon says.

But wait. Wait.

We can use these ships, that can go to Mars, on Earth.

Anywhere on Earth, you could travel to within an hour. Most long distance trips, could be completed within half an hour.

And with that, comes the end of the presentation...wow. there's a lot to digest.

We'll be posting more as we work through this dump of information.

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