With Elon Musk and his concrete ambitions, a settlement on the Red planet seems like an achievable feat. To shed more light on his plans for the Mars Misson, Musk took to Reddit to conduct an Ask Me Anything session. This talk was meant to be supplemental to his talk at the International Astronautical Congress, where he revealed his grand plan for colonizing Mars and making humans a multi-planetary species.
And oh boy, did people have a lot of doubts and questions for the legendary innovator! Everyone is excited for future prospects of living on Mars someday. And here’s a brief step-by-step outlook to how Elon Musk plans to deliver on his extensive, grand plan.
Firstly, several people inquired about the primary deeds of traveling to Mars and setting up basic infrastructure. Musk explained that first few missions to the Red planet would only involve the crewless Dragon capsule, which will be used to test landing gear and scout sites to extract water for fuel reactions. The company will then follow these scouting mission with the Interplanetary Transit System(ITS), also known as Heart of Gold spaceship.
Its first trip to Mars, as expected, won’t carry any humans as there is still no need for them on this barren planet. The first ITS mission will carry along with it equipment required for a Mars-based propellant plant. This flight might also carry along with it mining or tunneling droids that’ll build huge underground pressurized spaces for habitation. The next(or first crewed) ITS mission would carry a dozen people to the Red planet to have the propellant plant up and running. This crew will also build a rudimentary base, very similar to the one in Martian(the movie) maybe.
Her further adds that SpaceX will design and build the ITS spaceship to be powerful enough to conveniently travel between Mars and Earth. Once this already extensive feat is achieved, SpaceX plans to double the number of flights with each ideal Earth-Mars rendezvous, every 26 months, until the society can produce fuel and grow by itself. On being asked about the biggest challenge that SpaceX requires to overcome for the Mars mission to be a success, Musk says ‘carbon-fiber propellant tanks’. He further adds,
Biggest question right now is sealing the carbon fiber tanks against cryo propellant with hot autogenous pressurization. The oxygen tank also has an oxidation risk problem as it is pressurized with pure, hot oxygen.
Will almost certainly need to apply an inert layer of some kind. Hopefully, something that can be sprayed. If need be, will use thin sheets of invar welded together on the inside.
In addition, the ITS spaceship will most likely be configurable according to the needs of the mission — more cargo on earlier ones as compared to humans in future ones. The designing team is also aggressively working on sketching out plans for the habitation section of the spaceship. The actual live mockups along with details of the same will be released in a year or two, says Musk in the AMA.
Elon Musk also told the Reddit audience a bit more about the ITS spaceship in general. He said that the spaceship can easily handle about 10 to 15 g’s of acceleration without breaking up. It will, however, work nominally under 20 g’s. The people then questioned Musk about the hovering capabilities of ITS and whether SpaceX plans to use the same during missions. To which he answered,
A high acceleration landing is a lot more efficient, so there wouldn’t be any hovering unless it encountered a problem or unexpected wind conditions. A rocket that lands slowly is wasting a lot of fuel.
And even though the online discussion was to supplement the Mars Mission, people went off-topic and asked about the future of SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets. Musk obliged the audience with an answer and said,
I think the F9 boosters could be used almost indefinitely, so long as there is scheduled maintenance and careful inspections.
Falcon 9 Block 5 — the final version in the series — is the one that has the most performance and is designed for easy reuse, so it just makes sense to focus on that long term and retire the earlier versions. Block 5 starts production in about 3 months and initial flight is in 6 to 8 months.
This discussion shows that even after the unfortunate explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket booster and satellite last month, legendary innovator Elon Musk is still in high spirits and hell-bent on pursuing his dream of travelling to Mars one day. He has set his sight on Mars and it wouldn’t be out of his reach soon!