Updated: Aug 3
"Mars and Beyond" is how Elon Musk named his most ambitious, exciting, and almost unbelievable goal of the near future. With the help of the most powerful launch vehicle, the Starship, humans might soon become residents of not only the Earth but also other planets. The first destination is Mars.
Being a single planet species became a little boring for someone who makes the craziest dreams come true. Elon Musk believes that humanity is too big to be living on just one planet. "We don't want to be one of those single-planet species; we want to be a multi-planet species," Musk said. Before going to Mars, the first step of making his visions come true, Elon Musk believes it is essential to go back on the moon after almost half a century of pause. "We need to get back there and have a permanent base on the moon — again, like a big permanently occupied base on the moon. And then build a city on Mars to become a spacefaring civilization, a multi-planet species," Musk said.
However, as one can imagine, establishing humanity on Mars does take time, energy, and resources. Even though SpaceX had not yet disclosed how much the program cost so far, we know that the company recently won a $2.9 billion contract from NASA to help the space agency land astronauts on the moon's surface. Its valuation has soared to about $74 billion, making it one of the most valuable private companies in the world. Musk previously estimated that the full development of Starship would cost around $5 billion, but perhaps the program needs higher price ceilings.
What is this Starship, promising humanity to become a "Magic Carpet" to Mars? The SpaceX official website describes Starship as the future's most powerful launch vehicle, capable of carrying more than 100 metric tons into orbit. SpaceX has been aggressively iterating on Starship's design, with orbital flight expected for 2023, based on its long experience of launch vehicle and engine development programs. Tanker trucks may refill the Starship spaceship in low-Earth orbit, allowing it to deliver up to 100 tons of fuel all the way to Mars. The propellant is the most expensive part, and oxygen and methane are quite cheap.
Furthermore, if the tanker ship has a high reuse potential, it may be refitted with solar panels and used on another planet. At 7.5 kilometers per second, the Starship spacecraft will hit Mars' atmosphere and decelerate aerodynamically. The heat shield on the spacecraft is meant to endure numerous incursions, but considering how hot the planet is, experts expect some heat shield ablation.
Starship has flown successfully on several occasions. Landing attempts following the first four high-altitude flights resulted in explosive explosions. Despite the loss of the prototypes, SpaceX deemed the flights as progress toward developing an utterly reusable rocket which led to a successful culmination of Starship Prototype SN-15 acing the landing. In addition, the rocket's massive size would allow it to carry multiple times as much cargo at once. In contrast, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets can launch up to 60 Starlink satellites at once; SpaceX claims Starship would be able to launch 400 Starlink satellites at once.
Testing Spaceship will take time and hundreds of milestones. First, the rocket has yet to reach orbit and return successfully. Even though the Spaceship is still in the early stages of development and being acknowledged as the most trusted rocket, Elon Musk thinks there are only a couple of years left before humanity starts living on Mars. Musk says that by the end of the twenties the Spaceship will be able to achieve its grand mission and successfully land humans on the new destination.
"You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great - will what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars." - Elon Musk.
In 1961 when John F Kennedy challenged America to put a human on the moon, the space program became the only ray of hope and light within the world under the greatest crisis of war, conflicts, and nuclear threats. Today, the world is not only getting ready for a quick journey to the moon but landing and building a life on a whole different planet. Is it possible to run away from conflicts and the ever-lasting tensed worldwide situations, or will the problems follow along the tracks of Spaceship? Are these problems just the problems of Earth, or are they soaked within humanity? There is only one way to find out – let's go to Mars…