After the Latest Launch, Elon Musk Is Convinced That Starship Will Reach Mars in 3 Years. How Realistic Is It?

  • Musk believes that taking children to Mars will be unsafe in the first 10 years of flights, but that it will be secure to take dogs.

  • SpaceX has already solved the problem of fuel evaporation, he said.

After the latest launch, Elon Musk is convinced that Starship will reach Mars in three years
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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has an alt account on X with the username @cyb3rgam3r420, where he occasionally plays Diablo IV live. On Sunday night, he was online for five hours answering various questions about SpaceX’s plans for Starship.

Getting to Mars in three years. Motivated by the rocket's successful fourth launch, Musk said that Starship will be ready to go to Mars in three years. The first launch will be unmanned, of course. Still, it will be a technology showcase for future human spaceflights to colonize the Red Planet and build a permanent inhabited base.

How realistic is that estimate? According to the tech billionaire, Starship has already solved many challenges, such as the evaporation of cryogenic fuels. The journey to Mars is extraordinarily long, and the spacecraft will have to keep methane and oxygen in liquid form—in other words, at extremely low temperatures. Musk said Starship will be able to do this because of to the thick insulation of its tanks.

Twenty years of collective work. As for future crewed flights, Musk believes that with its rapidly reusable approach, Starship could take 100,000 people to Mars every two years—coinciding with planetary alignment—and use the same Super Heavy booster to launch many spacecraft in a row.

To achieve this, SpaceX would have to scale up Starship production drastically. For comparison's sake, it would have to make as many rockets per year as Boeing makes 737s, or about 300. This won't be possible without the cooperation of governments worldwide and would require a truly global effort to make humans an interplanetary species.

“It’s dangerous, and you could die.” Where are so many people going to come from? Musk acknowledges that the first manned flights to Mars will be complex, dangerous, and possibly fatal. But he estimates that of the 8 billion people on Earth, perhaps a million would be willing to migrate to the Red Planet, even if they don’t have a guaranteed flight home.

“It’s not going to be a luxury destination for long,” the SpaceX CEO said. “The commercial claim for going to Mars is going to be: ‘It’s dangerous, it’s too many people in too little space, it’s uncomfortable, and you could die. Who’s in?’ And that’s the optimistic version of describing the trip.”

A secondary mission for NASA. Although Musk intends to colonize Mars with Starship, SpaceX has applied for a more urgent NASA mission: to search for the rock samples collected by the Perseverance rover, given that the space agency has canceled the Mars Sample Return mission.

NASA has selected 10 companies as candidates for this task, and one of them is SpaceX, which has proposed sending a spacecraft to Mars to look for the rock samples. It’s unclear how SpaceX would do the collection part once the spacecraft reaches Mars or how it plans to land on the planet with enough fuel to take off and return to Earth. But there’s a one-in-10 chance we’ll see the company try.

No children, but dogs are good. Musk said in a recent interview with the YouTuber "Ellie in Space" that the first missions to Mars wouldn’t be safe for children because of the initial risk of death and the hostile environment, both from the journey and cosmic radiation from the Red Planet, which has a thin atmosphere and is subject to massive dust storms.

The billionaire has mentioned converting the spacecraft into Noah’s Ark. However, he believes it will be at least 10 years before SpaceX can safely bring the first children to Mars. At that time, he presumes it will be secure to have children in the Red Planet colony. Instead, while playing Diablo IV, he suggested that taking your dog with you would be possible. He didn’t say anything about cats.

Image | Elon Musk, SpaceX

Related | Elon Musk Reveals Details About Starship’s Next Flight. It’s Not Good News for Those With Little Patience

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