#SpaceX’s Elon Musk intends to open his mind further about his plans to colonize Mars, which included starting robotic probes by 2018 and a crewed expedition as early as 2025, at a conference in Mexico late in September. But the sharp-eyed Eric Berger at Ars Technica has noticed a series of tweets from the commercial space tycoon that suggest that his ambitions are already expanding beyond #Mars.
Musk has tweeted that he has seen that a spacecraft capable of taking 100 people or 100 metric tons of cargo to Mars will give SpaceX a lot of capability for other destinations. NASA has come to the same realization about its Space Launch System, which is now being tasked with sending massive probes to the Outer Planets as well as sending people to cis-lunar space and then to Mars. Musk has now dubbed the spacecraft formally known as the Mars Colonial Transport as the “Interplanetary Transport System.”
Musk and SpaceX are currently struggling with an accident that destroyed one of their workhorse Falcon 9 rockets, an expensive Israeli communications satellite, and a launch pad. Some observers have wondered whether Musk should really be focused a lot on roaring off to Mars and the rest of the solar system before he gets whatever bug that caused the accident identified and fixed. SpaceX is due to start sending astronauts to and from the International Space Station in a couple of years. If the company does not fulfill that task, it will not likely exist in a few years, not to speak of sending people to Mars or any other destination.
On the other hand, predictions of Elon Musk’s downfall have always turned out to be a bad bet. He has helped to pioneer the recovering of first stages of vertical takeoff rockets. When he starts to reuse those first stages for subsequent missions, Musk will have transformed the economics of space travel in ways that have been dreamed about for decades.
Musk’s SpaceX is not the only ambitious commercial space company. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Blue Origin, recently announced a new launch vehicle called the New Glenn, capable of taking people to Earth orbit and, in a three-stage configuration, send large payloads into deep space. He also teased a rocket beyond the New Glenn, called the New Armstrong, presumably a moon rocket. Thus, the age private sector space exploration may be drawing nigh. #InterplanetaryTransportSystem