Elon Musk Is Sending Humans To Mars In 2024

Do you get the feeling that Elon Musk likes making bold announcements?

Every space enthusiast’s favorite billionaire-turned-space-entrepreneur has just announced that he hopes his company, SpaceX, will send humans to Mars in 2024. If this sounds outrageous, you’re not keeping up with developments in commercial space. If this sounds a little bit ambitious, you’re probably right. But ambition is what Musk is all about.

“I think, if things go according to plan, we should be able to launch people probably in 2024, with arrival in 2025,” Musk said.

Musk, of course, is the Paypal co-founder who went on to start the Tesla electric car company, and SpaceX, the private space company. SpaceX has achieved a lot in its short time, including developing the Falcon re-usable rocket and the Dragon delivery and re-supply craft. With an even more powerful rocket in development, the Falcon Heavy, it’s fair to say that Musk has a track record of delivering on ambitious projects.

Musk’s announcement, at the Code Conference 2016 in Los Angeles, is definitely exciting news. It comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this spring stating that SpaceX will send a Dragon capsule to Mars in 2018, albeit one with no personnel on board. Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the goal of advancing the technologies required to establish a human colony on Mars, so everything seems to be going according to plan.

But a colony needs supplies, and with that in mind Musk also announced the intention of sending a craft to Mars every two years, in order to establish a supply line.

“The basic game plan is we’re going to send a mission to Mars with every Mars opportunity from 2018 onwards,” Musk said Wednesday night. “They occur approximately every 26 months. We’re establishing cargo flights to Mars that people can count on for cargo.”

“That’s what’s necessary to create a self-sustaining, or a growing, city on Mars,” he added.

Of course, there’s lots of work to be done yet. Currently, there is no rocket powerful enough for a mission like this. The most powerful rocket ever built was the Saturn V, used to get the Apollo mission to the Moon. That was 50 years ago.

An artist's interpretation of NASA's Space Launch System Block 1 configuration with an Orion vehicle. Image: NASA
An artist’s interpretation of NASA’s Space Launch System Block 1 configuration with an Orion vehicle. Image: NASA

NASA’s Space Launch System will have the power for a Mars mission, but that’s a ways away, and they probably won’t be giving SpaceX one. SpaceX has developed the Falcon rocket, and are working on the Falcon Heavy, but it won’t be enough to establish and maintain a presence on Mars. Still, this obstacle is anything but insurmountable, even though there has been no announcement on the building of this required rocket.

This whole endeavour will be enormously expensive, of course. But with a growing customer base for SpaceX, including the US military, NASA, and commercial communications customers, it seems like the money will be there.

As for the timeline, Musk acknowledges that it is a fairly aggressive one. “When I cite a schedule, it’s actually a schedule I think is true,” Musk said. “It’s not some fake schedule I don’t think is true. I may be delusional. That is entirely possible, and maybe it’s happened from time to time, but it’s never some knowingly fake deadline ever.”

The announcement itself sounds so simple. But Musk knows, as does everyone else involved in planning these kinds of missions, that there is an enormous amount of complex detail behind it all. The food required, the energy needed, and all of the other things that a sustained human presence on Mars will require in order to succeed, are all waiting to be addressed. Musk plans to address some of these details in September at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.

We've been dreaming about a Mars colony for a long time, as this lovely retro drawing shows. Will SpaceX finally give us one? Image: NASA
We’ve been dreaming about a Mars colony for a long time, as the lovely retro drawing shows. Will SpaceX finally give us one? Image: NASA

Musk generates a lot of headlines when he makes these announcements. That’s as it should be. But there are other plans to reach Mars, too.

NASA is planning to get to Mars, but they’re going about it differently. They plan on using their SLS and the Orion to explore what’s called cis-lunar space, near the Moon, to test deep space operations, life support systems, solar-electric thrusters, and habitats. All of this activity could start as soon as 2021, and would support an eventual round-trip mission to Mars in the 2030s.

For a long time, it seemed that a mission to Mars was out of reach, off the table, and nobody was really talking about it. Now, we have two separate programs aiming toward an eventual mission to Mars.

Could this be the new space race? But instead of capitalism versus communism, as in the original space race, it’s government versus private?

In the end, it won’t really matter. We just want someone to get there. And we want an established presence. A colony.

Our survival may depend on it.

11 Replies to “Elon Musk Is Sending Humans To Mars In 2024”

  1. Yes!!!

    The first time humans took a giant step that we didn’t think they could, it was because of an administration(s), and a country not wanting to look inept to their “enemy” by not completing their publicly stated goal.

    But, is there ANY motivation that’s proven itself more effective throughout history than an extremely rich and egocentric man, essentially accountable to nobody, unwilling to damage his reputation as an “action man”, not wanting to look like he can’t live up to his statements and make something happen that he publicly said he would??!

    I have a strange feeling he might kill a few people along the way (I hope not), but I’m pretty damn sure this IS going to happen!!

    And when it does, the efficiency with which he’ll go from zero to Mars, will make the considerably intelligent people at NASA look like inept fools (even though they’re not, they’re just buried under 60 years of US Govt “procedures”, “protocol” and “paperwork”

  2. SpaceX chances of doing this in the time frame as the same as MarsOne’s – zero. Musk seems to enjoys shooting his mouth off and watching people swallow his statements uncritically, not matter how preposterous.

      1. Falcon 1 – supposed to be a reliable and reusable launcher for small satellites. Five launches, three failures, abandoned 2009, despite substantial external investment to achieve this goal

        Dragon with crew 2009 – predicted development of crewed version 2-3 years (2011-2012). Four/five years later still waiting

        Reusable Dragon 2009 – seven years later not a single Dragon has been rused.

        Falcon Heavy 2011 – predicted launch 2013. Three years later we’re still waiting.

        Fully reusable Falcon 9 2005 – Still waiting. 2014 abandoned plans for 2nd stage recovery. Did not recover a 1st stage until 2015. None reused as yet.

  3. Besides being a parvenu (jerk) eager to spend income on Mars, not to fly humans to Mars no reason.

  4. I think it’s a GREAT idea to have at least two homes for humanity… because when we finally kill off all the life in the seas our time here is up and we will need a backup plan…

  5. If it is true that Mars was like earth sometime ago in the past, then we can assume human civilization also developed there. If this is true, then only something like a thermo-neuclear holocaust could cause the type of barrenness we see there now. Assuming this is also true, then we can expect the whole planet to be something like a Chernobyl forbidden area. Who would want to live in a Chernobyl here on earth? If nobody, then why should any sane person want to live there? Assuming we manage to take care of all the other daunting challenges, like finding water, producing oxygen, creating an atmosphere, shielding ourselves from radiation, etc, how do go about cleaning the planet from such radioactivity in order to make it really habitable. Or are these brave pioneers going to spend the rest of their lives living in a glass cubicles without being able to walk around without space suits or able to grow plants outside. Must be a big ordeal. Sending humans to Mars is commendable, but colonizing Mars permanently may not be worth the effort.

  6. Getting humans to Mars is possible, Space X may do it. Getting humans back from Mars now that’s the hard part

  7. Can’t even get out of LEO. Let alone make it to the moon.. All this yammering about Mars is ridiculous.

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