SpaceX previewed a new rocket and capsule design that CEO Elon Musk says will be used to colonize Mars with humans. Musk outlined the ambitious plan during the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico conference on Tuesday, as the keynote speaker.
Musk, a multi-billionaire who also heads Tesla and SolarCity, hopes to transport as many as 1 million people to the planet with his new efforts. In a video posted to YouTube briefly before the conference on Tuesday, SpaceX showed a rocket on a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
"Even at a million, you're really assuming an incredible amount of productivity per person, because you would need to recreate the entire industrial base on Mars," Musk told Aeon Magazine in a lengthy interview. "You would need to mine and refine all of these different materials, in a much more difficult environment than Earth."
While he didn't provide specific financing plans for the Mars project, Musk said it could cost $10 billion over the next few years. During his keynote speech, Musk detailed part of the challenge will be getting the ticket price low enough to attract volunteers.
"We're kind of intentionally a bit fuzzy on this timeline," Musk said. He added the bottom line is SpaceX is on the way to Mars within about 10 years or so "if things go super well".
Musk said once all of the components of the plan are in place, the estimated cost of moving to Mars could drop below $200,000 for individuals. Flights are said to take place every 26 months, when the Earth and Mars are aligned for an optimal trip.
Musk estimates a trip to Mars will take 80 days. The current rocket design will take 100 people, plus cargo, and will have movies and a restaurant to pass time.
Why Mars? Musk says the red planet offers advantages over the "hot acid bath" of Venus and Mercury. Other planets are too far away, and the Earth's moon doesn't have an atmosphere as well suited for a colony as Mars.
While a private company, SpaceX has seen support from NASA both financially and with resources. The government space agency is supporting SpaceX's first "Red Dragon" mission to Mars in 2018, for testing purposes.
In September, SpaceX suffered embarassment when its unmanned Falcon 9 rocket exploded on its launchpad in Cape Canaveral. Part of its payload was Facebook's satellite aiming to bring internet to developing nations.
SpaceX isn't in the space race alone. Blue Origin, another private space company from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is in the planning stages of a "New Shepard" rocket that is destined for Mars. President Rob Meyerson made the announcement at the conference on Tuesday.
SpaceX launched a web page that will be updated as the project moves along. The full announcement can be watched on YouTube.