Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, was at the StartmeupHK Festival in Hong Kong recently where he opened his mind about both his and his company’s future. He not only suggested that he would take a personal journey into #Space within the next few years, but that his lifelong dream of setting up a colony on Mars would be set into motion in 2025, less than ten years from now.
SpaceX is already flying a version of the Dragon spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and take some back to Earth. In a couple of years a new version of the Dragon, along with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, is scheduled to convey astronauts to and from the ISS. Musk plans his journey into space on one of these flights within the next five years.
Musk has made no secret of the fact that the ultimate purpose of his company is to settle human beings on Mars. His plans for doing so are sufficiently vague that, unlike a similar scheme being conducted by a Dutch group called Mars One, they defy evaluation. Musk has teased the world about a super heavy rocket called the Mars Colonial Transport that will take settlers and their supplies to the Red Planet at a cost of $500,000 per person. The MCT would be able to take as many as 100 people at a time. Musk has promised further details later in 2016.
The 2025 start date for such a bold undertaking seems ambitious to say that least. SpaceX lacks the financial resources of NASA, which is planning its own Mars expedition ten years later than Musk envisions his starting. SpaceX would not even be in operation were it not for fat government contracts and NASA subsidies.
Strangely, while skepticism abounds, some of it justified, about NASA’s Journey to Mars, SpaceX is getting a pass for its Mars settlement plans for the time being. Partly the lack of skepticism is derived from the lack of specifics surrounding Musk’s Mars ambitions. The attitude stems from Musk’s status as one of the cool kids of modern space flight. NASA has gotten a stodgier image since the glory days of the Apollo program. SpaceX and similar commercial space companies such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are where things are happening. So, the world awaits further details on Musk’s version of a mission to Mars.