Will people be living on Mars?

Elon Musk and his project SpaceX can be very useful to get to the Red Planet.

Elon Musk

What is it - a fantasy or real future of the world space?

September 27 at the International Astronautical Federation Congress Elon Musk laid out his vision of how humanity can establish a self-supporting colony on Mars. Although his presentation technically looks like a well elaborated thing, the businessman recognizes that without the partnership with government space agencies his proposed plan has no chance to be implemented.

Musk motivates the need to create a Martian colony that humanity is in the strategic plan has a chance to survive, if only cease to have monoplanet views. Otherwise, the impact of an asteroid, eruption of a super volcano or nuclear war could easily break the existence of our species. Mars is better than the rest of the Solar System as it is suitable for colonization purposes. His solid surface is dry land, and the atmosphere is not as hot and dense as on Venus. In the opinion of the entrepreneur, the only difficulty separating us from colonization is technical. His vision of making it he has outlined in the presentation.


The first obstacle was here that he sees the price of the flight to Mars, because if you use the classic approach, NASA has tested when flying to the moon, will require a huge multistage rocket, weighing thousands of tons. The first stage is for raising the ship into space, the upper is used for landing and take-off from another celestial body.

Musk said that this method requires 10 billion dollars per person, which is unacceptable. For flights to become justified, it is necessary to reduce the cost of sending up to 100-200 thousand dollars, in 50-100 thousand times less than the NASA approach.

For this, he considers it necessary to make three key steps.

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First, special ships for the flight to the Red Planet should be carried by reusable boosters on the first stage of the methane-oxygen engines - Raptor. Reusable engines will reduce the cost and more output. The first stage will drive the ship, having its own engines, to 2.4 kilometers per second, and then go on the decline, to immediately land at Cape Canaveral. The rest of several kilometers per second manned spacecraft will receive due to its own fuel, completely exhausted it.

Second, to bring a larger size spaceship for less money on the board will be possible due to less amount of fuel for the flight to Mars – only a sufficient amount to achieve a "parking orbit". This is several times reduces weight, which will be needed to throw in one trip. Because of this ship with the mass of the booster first stage will amount to only 10 000 tones, which is only three times larger than the "Saturn-5" and only 10-20 times the existing missiles.


Missing fuel will take the ship (after a brief refueling) which is just landed at Canaveral first step, using a second tanker spaceship. After refueling in orbit, spaceship through its own engines (maybe a couple with a gravity assist) will drive up to 28 kilometers per second, it is sufficient to reach Mars in 150 days (and in some cases even faster).

Braking in the atmosphere will be implemented by the ship maneuver so-called "the belly forward" that will boost its wind resistance and will slow down even in the tenuous Martian atmosphere. Only in the final stage the ship will turn on the landing engines. Heating body with aerodynamic deceleration reaches 1700 degrees Celsius. For protection ablation (evaporation) shield will be used made of carbon fiber impregnated with phenol-formaldehyde resins. This scheme has already been tested by NASA, including rovers Agency landing, and it really reliably protects against such overheating. In the experiments, NASA has landed such a machine on the Earth, extinguishing its speed from 12.4 km per second.

Finally, thirdly, that in the flight to Mars there is no need to take the fuel to take off from it. The ship will receive fuel for the return flight on the spot. This approach Musk offers to borrow fully from earlier projects, including Robert Zubrin. From the Martian water ice (there are billions of tons of it at least), and atmospheric carbon dioxide they will get methane and oxygen. The latter can be used for breathing before deployment of full-scale greenhouses in conditions of Mars. As it has been already reported, recent experiments have shown that terrestrial plants bear fruit in the Martian atmosphere at the local analog ground (and not just potatoes!).


Although Musk was silent about it in a presentation, a significant portion of the reduction in the colonization of the costs will be made because of the rarity of return flights. The colonists in his scheme will not come back from Mars to Earth, and stay there forever. This will minimize "parasitic" traffic. Another detail which was not mentioned in the presentation of the head of SpaceX, is that the Sabatier process requires cost 17.6 megawatt-hours of energy per ton of fuel. This means that for filling the spaceship, the draft of which he presented at the congress, will take many gigawatt-hours, that is in fact like a nuclear reactor.

Technically, the project is the most advanced of the existing schemes of economical flight to the Red Planet. Reusable first stage and the active use of refueling in orbit and on Mars can really lower the cost of flights, though not up to 140 dollars per kilogram, as the businessman plans. But the whole scheme will only succeed in mass production of the first stages and ships designed by SpaceX. According to the calculations of the businessman, full colony on Mars would require a million people and the construction of 1,000 ships. Each of which will take 100 colonists and some amount of goods for their arrangement and the transition to a stand-alone mode from the Earth.

This is the weakest point of the project. Musk himself acknowledges that such a large fleet of the missile will not be build without a public-private partnership. But it is impossible to imagine a country that would have gone to such a partnership with his company. USA Today is too burdened with debts and is reluctant to invest in the future. The Even more severe problem is the motivation for the colonization of Mars, without which the public partner just will not give money to the project.


For Musk the issue is clear: a strategic view of how people without colonizing of other worlds are doomed. In the foreseeable future there is no way to stop disasters like Chicxulub, Toba or the Deccan traps. However, the real solutions to the American States take people who are not aware of the meaning of all these words. Moreover, they do not represent any threat of the regular events of this type to the human mind. As you know, the real US presidential candidates confused Aleppo to Raqqa, that is, even the modern world is quite fragmented for them.

Politicians in other countries do not differ much from the American planning horizon. Obviously, if this issue has long been resolved for Elon Musk, it is quite vague for statesmen.

The general scheme of the flight is shown in the video below:

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