SpaceX’s Big Freaking Rocket – The Full Story (G-Rated Version)

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Yesterday, Elon Musk received on stage at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress and unveiled the first real particulars concerning the huge freaking rocket they’re making.

A pair months ago, when SpaceX first introduced that this may be occurring in late September, it hit me that I’d still have particular privileges with them, type of grandfathered in from my time working with Elon and his corporations in 2015 (which resulted in an in-depth four-part blog collection). So I reached out and asked if I might study concerning the massive freaking rocket forward of time and write a publish about it.

They stated yes.

A short while later, I obtained on a call with Elon to debate the rocket, the timeline, and the large plan this was all a part of. We started off how we all the time do.

Stick Tim and Stick Elon on the phone in silence

Then I introduced up the rocket.

Tim: The Mars rocket is big. Elon: Yes, it's quite big.

Tim: It's gonna take people to Mars. Elon: That's the plan.

Tim: I'm gonna get to go because I'm a special boy. Elon: (silence)

Stick Tim and Stick Elon on the phone in silence

Ultimately, we have been capable of settle in to an interesting dialog about this insane machine SpaceX is constructing and what’s going to occur with it.

Now, earlier than we get into issues—

This submit is just a bit of The SpaceX Story—one of the crucial superb stories of our time—and a story I spent three months and 40,000 words telling last yr. When you really need to perceive this and you haven’t read that publish yet, I like to recommend you begin there. The publish has three elements, divided into five pages:

Part 1: The Story of Humans and Area

Part 2: Musk’s Mission

Half three: Tips on how to Colonize Mars
→ Part 1: Work out how you can put issues into area
→ Part 2: Revolutionize the cost of area journey
→ Part three: Colonize Mars

For many who have learn the submit and need a refresher or those who simply need to hear concerning the massive freaking rocket and transfer on with their day, here’s a fast overview of the background:

The Context

To know why the large freaking rocket issues, it’s a must to perceive this sentence:

SpaceX is making an attempt to make human life multi-planetary by constructing a self-sustaining, one-million-person civilization on Mars.

Let’s go part by part.

Why make human life multi-planetary?

Two causes:

1) It’s enjoyable and thrilling. (Here’s a clip from one of the interviews I did with Elon last yr where he articulates this point.)

2) It’s not an incredible concept to have all of our eggs in one basket. Right now we’re all on Earth, which signifies that if something terrible happens on Earth—brought on by nature or by our personal know-how—we’re executed. That’s like having a valuable digital photograph album saved only on one not-necessarily-reliable exhausting drive. Should you have been in that state of affairs, you’d be sensible to again the album up on a second arduous drive. That’s the thought right here. Elon calls it “life insurance for the species.”

Why Mars?

Venus is a jerk, with its lead-melting temperatures, its crushing atmospheric strain, and its unbearable winds.

The moon has few natural assets, a 28-day day, and with no environment to either provide protection towards the solar through the day or warm issues up at night time, each day and night time turn into murderous. Similar deal on Mercury.

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are just large balls of fuel pretending to be planets.

Sure moons of Jupiter and Saturn are probably liveable, but they’re farther away and colder and darker than Mars, so why would we do this.

Pluto is even farther and colder and darker. Stop asking me about Pluto.

That leaves Mars. Mars isn’t a superb time. If Mars have been a spot on Earth, it’s someplace nobody would need to go. But compared to all of those different options, it’s a dream. It’s cold however not that cold. It’s sort of dark however not that much darker than Earth. It’s far however not that far. Its day is nearly the identical length as ours, which is good for us and massively helpful for growing Earthly vegetation. Its floor gravity isn’t loopy low or crazy high (it’s round a 3rd of Earth’s). It has a ton of (frozen) water and an honest amount of CO2, that are essential for early attempts at dwelling there and massively helpful for future makes an attempt to “terraform” the planet into a spot more livable for humans. All issues thought-about, we’re very lucky to have an choice nearly as good as Mars—in most different photo voltaic methods, we in all probability wouldn’t.

Why 1,000,000 individuals?

Because Elon thinks that’s a tough estimate for the number of individuals you’d have to have on Mars to ensure that the Mars civilization to be “self-sustaining”—with self-sustaining outlined by Elon as: “Even if the spaceships from Earth permanently stop coming, the colony doesn’t eventually die out—which requires a huge industrial base, and a much harder industrial base to create than being on Earth.”

In other words, if exhausting drive #2 relies on onerous drive #1 with a purpose to stay working, then your photograph album isn’t actually backed up, is it? The entire point of exhausting drive #2 is to save lots of the day if exhausting drive #1 completely crashes.

And while the Earth exhausting drive might “crash” for many thrilling causes—an asteroid hits us, AI kills us, Trump kills us, ISIS creates some upsetting biological weapon, and so forth.—Elon additionally warns concerning the much less dramatic risk that the Earth ships cease coming simply because Earth civilization stops having the potential to send them:

The spaceships from Earth might cease coming for other causes—it might be WWIII, it might be that Earth becomes a spiritual state, it could possibly be some gradual decline the place Earth civilization simply sinks beneath its own weight. At one level the Egyptians have been capable of build pyramids, and then they forgot how to try this. And then they forgot tips on how to learn hieroglyphics, until the Rosetta Stone. Rome as properly—that they had indoor plumbing, that they had superior aqueducts, after which that fell apart. China at one level had the world’s largest fleet of sailing ships they usually have been crusing so far as Africa, then some crazy emperor got here along and decided that was dangerous and had all of them burnt. So that you simply don’t know what’s gonna happen. The key threshold to move is the variety of individuals and tons of cargo required to make issues self-sustaining. And that’s in all probability something like one million individuals and doubtless something like 10-100 million tons of cargo.

In other words, let’s not wait on this.

Great, however how the heck do you deliver 1,000,000 individuals to Mars?

You make this inexperienced part exist:

Blue circle: People who can afford to go to Mars. Yellow circle: People who want to go to Mars. Green intersection: At least a million people

It’s sort of simple. If we get to some extent where there are one million individuals on Earth who both need to go to Mars and may afford to go to Mars, there shall be one million individuals on Mars.

Unfortunately, right now the yellow circle is tiny and the blue circle doesn’t exist.

Elon thinks—and I type of do too—that if the blue circle can get large enough, the yellow circle will deal with itself. If Mars is reasonably priced and protected and you already know you’ll have the ability to come again, lots of people will need to go.

The arduous half is the blue circle. Here’s the difficulty:

Last time the US Congress checked with NASA, the price to send a five-person crew to Mars was $50 billion. $10 billion a person. Elon thinks that to make the blue circle sufficiently giant, it must value $500,000 an individual. 1/20,000 of the current value.


That’s like wanting on the automotive business and saying, “Right now a new Honda costs around $20,000. To make this a viable industry, we need to get the cost of a new car down to $1.”

So what the heck?

Right here’s the heck:

Think about if the best way planes labored was that they took off, flew to their vacation spot, however then as an alternative of landing, all of the passengers parachuted right down to the ground and then the aircraft landed by smashing into the ocean and blowing up. So each aircraft flew precisely once, and to have a brand new flight occur, you’d need to build another aircraft.

A aircraft ticket would value $1.5 million.

Area travel is at present so expensive principally because we land rockets by crashing them into the ocean (or incinerating them in the environment).

When Elon started SpaceX, he was decided to fix this drawback. It was a tall order, provided that no one had ever executed it earlier than—together with nations just like the US and Russia who had spent billions making an attempt. However SpaceX puzzled away on the drawback yr after yr, and after making an attempt and failing a bunch of occasions, in late 2015, they nailed it:

Then they nailed it again. And again. And once more. Now they nail it most of the time. Right here’s a daytime view of a current landing:

Soon, for the primary time, a beforehand used-and-landed, flight-tested Falcon 9 will carry out a new mission for SpaceX, formally making SpaceX rockets “reusable.”

To fly a mission on a used rocket, you solely have to pay for propellant (gasoline and liquid oxygen) and a bit of routine upkeep. This cuts the worth of area journey down by 100 or even 1,000 occasions.

That leaves us with someplace between 19/20 and 199/200 of the fee left to chop. A part of that may happen when SpaceX takes 100 or more individuals to Mars at a time, as an alternative of five (the number Congress asked NASA about). The rest of it is taken care of by a couple of easy innovations, like refueling the spaceships in orbit (which lowers the price by 5-10x) and manufacturing propellant on Mars so that you don’t have to hold your return propellant with you (which lowers the fee by one other 5-10x). More on those things later.

Instantly, not only can the worth get right down to $500,000/ticket, it might in all probability go even decrease (Elon thinks it might ultimately value beneath $100,000/individual). You might not have observed it but, but SpaceX’s improvements are in the process of making a complete revolution in the price of area journey—a change that may open doors we will’t think about being open in the present day. And when that revolution goes far sufficient, SpaceX’s vision of putting 1,000,000 individuals on Mars really—truly—critically—might happen.

We’re going to Mars. And this week, SpaceX confirmed us the factor that’s gonna take us there.

The Rocket

“It’s so mind-blowing. It blows my mind, and I see it every week.”

Elon’s pumped. And if you study concerning the huge freaking rocket he’s building, you’ll understand why.

First, let’s take up the problem at hand. It’s typically stated that area is tough. To this present day, just a few hundred individuals have been in area, just a few nations have the power to launch something into area, and the historical past of human area travel is affected by tragic launch failures. Firing one thing tremendous heavy and delicate and filled with explosive liquid up via the environment without anything going flawed is incredibly arduous.

But once we speak about humans going into area, we’re speaking principally about people going into Low Earth Orbit, a layer of area between 100 and 1,200 miles above the bottom—and usually, they’re headed only 250 miles up to the International Area Station. The solely time humans have gone farther have been the small handful of People who made it out to the moon within the 1960s, touring about 250,000 miles away.

When Earth and Mars are at their closest, Mars is somewhere between 34 and 60 million miles away—about 200 occasions farther away than the moon and about 200,000 occasions farther away than the ISS.

The moon is just over one mild second away.

distance diagram of Earth and the moon with a bar representing 1 light second that nearly reaches the moon

Mars is more than three mild minutes away.

Mars is way.

Elon likes to match the Earth-to-Mars journey to crossing the Atlantic Ocean, noting that using that scale, going to the moon would solely be crossing the English Channel (and going to the ISS can be going to a dock 117 ft off the shore). Continuing with that comparison, he says, “A rocket made to go to Low Earth Orbit or even the moon is basically like a coastal fishing vessel, compared to a colonial transport system that is trying to go 1,000 times further.”

On prime of that, it may be value it to take just a few humans or a single satellite up into Low Earth Orbit—however in case you’re going all the best way to Mars, you need to take a lot more than that. So you need to take far more mass, much further. Multiplying the space issue by the payload issue, Elon explains that a Mars transport system “is like literally a million times more capable than what the current world launch system can do. It has to be.”

It additionally needs to be extremely superior. Elon says, “It’s not just bigger, it needs to be more efficient. There’s a false dichotomy when it comes to rockets of ‘small and complex’ or ‘big and dumb.’ People talk about the ‘big dumb booster’—that won’t work. You need a big smart booster. If you want to build a Mars colony, you have no choice— you have to make it big and efficient.”

In order that’s all it’s a must to do—build a rocket that’s one million occasions extra succesful than as we speak’s greatest rockets but who’s also environment friendly and sensible and a great listener.

SpaceX is constructing it. Meet the Big Freaking Rocket.1

spacex mars rocket

Onerous to fairly understand the bigness from that picture. So let’s add in some scale:

spacex mars rocket with house and person drawn to scale

Or how about this?

spacex mars rocket shown over a football field for scale

It might barely fit diagonally across a soccer area with out going into the stands.

There’s additionally this:

spacex mars rocket in skyline for scale

It’s a skyscraper. Or as Elon puts it, “by far the biggest flying object ever.”

In yesterday’s presentation, Elon explained that this isn’t a first crack at the way it may look, or an artist’s impression of the way it may look—it’s the way it’s going to look. That is the factor they’re constructing.

Unfortunately, SpaceX appears to be going by means of an existential disaster with regards to naming this thing—first it was the Mars Colonial Transporter, then (as a result of it could go well beyond Mars) it was renamed the Interplanetary Transport System, then yesterday within the presentation, Elon stated they haven’t truly settled on a reputation but however that the precise spaceship that makes the maiden voyage to Mars could be referred to as Heart of Gold1—so no one knows what to call it.

Which is why—until I hear in any other case—I’ll be calling it something Elon as soon as referred to it as: the Big Freaking Rocket (BFR).

The Big Freaking Rocket is freaking huge. At 400 ft tall, it’s the height of a 40-story skyscraper. At 40 ft in diameter, a faculty bus might match completely beneath its footprint. It’s more than 3 times the mass and generates over 3 times the thrust of the gargantuan Saturn V—the rocket used in the Apollo mission—which at present stands as by far the most important rocket humanity has made.

Here’s the way it stacks up subsequent to a bunch of different rockets in measurement:


The distinction is much more extreme whenever you examine the rockets by what number of kilograms of payload (i.e. cargo and/or individuals) they will every take to orbit:


For comparability, SpaceX’s awesome Falcon 9 rocket will be capable of take about four tons of payload to Mars, and the Falcon Heavy—which is about to be right now’s most powerful rocket—will have the ability to take about 13 tons to Mars. Elon believes the BFR will be capable of take a couple of hundred tons of payload to Mars at first and ultimately have the ability to take 1,000 tons. The absurdity of that statistic—that the behemoth Falcon Heavy can solely handle a bit of over 1% of the BFR’s final Mars payload—is fairly exhausting to soak up.

Now, to be clear—what I’ve been calling the Big Freaking Rocket this entire time is actually two things: a Big Freaking Spaceship sitting on prime of a Big Freaking Booster.

diagram of spacex mars rocket. spaceship: crew cabin, cargo cabin, liquid oxygen tank, methane fuel tank, 9 Raptor engines. booster: liquid oxygen tank, methane fuel tank, 42 Raptor engines

The Big Freaking Booster

Let’s start by talking concerning the booster. The 25-story-high booster—AKA the actual rocket of the BFR—is what Elon calls “quite a beast.” It’s the most important booster of all time—by far. By bodily measurement, undoubtedly, however much more so by thrust.

Within the SpaceX submit, I talked concerning the Falcon 9’s 9 Merlin engines, and the way every one was highly effective sufficient to raise a stack of 40 automobiles up into the sky—in complete, that meant the Falcon 9 set of engines might raise 360 automobiles. The Falcon Heavy, with its 27 Merlin engines, might raise a stack of over 1,000 automobiles up previous the clouds.2

The Big Freaking Booster sits atop a unique type of engine: the Raptor.

spacex raptor engine

The Raptor engine seems rather a lot like a Merlin, with one key difference—by significantly growing the strain, SpaceX has made the Raptor over 3 times extra powerful than a Merlin.

A single Raptor engine produces 310 tons of thrust—sufficient to raise 310 tons, or a stack of 172 automobiles, or a whole Boeing 747 airplane, into the sky. That’s what one Raptor can do.3

And the BFB has 42 of them.four

view of 42 Raptor engines

All collectively, that’s an extraordinary 13,033 tons of thrust, sufficient to push more than 7,000 automobiles—or 50 giant airplanes—as much as area.

The Big Freaking Spaceship

So then there’s the spacecraft—which SpaceX calls the Interplanetary Spaceship, and which I’m going to maintain calling the Big Freaking Spaceship as a result of it’s more fun. The BFS is the large cool-looking thing on prime of the BFB (in case you’re getting Big Freaking Confused—the Big Freaking Spaceship (BFS) on prime of the Big Freaking Booster (BFB) together make what I’ve been calling the Big Freaking Rocket (BFR)). The BFS is what is going to take the individuals and cargo to Mars. It’s additionally what is going to launch, by itself, off Mars and return to Earth with individuals who need to come back.

The BFS is itself the dimensions of a tall, 16-story constructing, and is 55 ft large at its thickest level. In addition to tons of, and ultimately a thousand tons of cargo, the BFS will have the ability to carry as many as 100 individuals initially, and Elon believes that number might develop to 200 and even above 300 individuals over time—like a cruise ship.

With nine Raptor engines, it’ll have extra liftoff thrust on its own than any of at present’s rockets—including next yr’s Falcon Heavy. For a second-stage, cargo-carrying spacecraft to pack more thrust than even probably the most highly effective first-stage rockets is outrageous.

Here’s a cross-section up shut:

cross section of spacex mars spacecraft

I asked Elon what it’ll be wish to experience in it. He stated, “Well, you’d be in a giant spaceship in microgravity.5 I mean, it would be pretty fun. You’d be floating around.”

Good point.

In the presentation Q&A, he added: “It has to be really fun and exciting, it can’t feel cramped or boring. The crew compartment is set up so that you can do zero-g games, you can float around, there will be movies, lecture halls, cabins, a restaurant—it’ll be really fun to go.”

Um, yeah, get me on that thing now. A zero gravity cruise ship. With this view:


And in the event you have been to go, here’s how the entire thing would work:

1) Get on the ship. The BFR will probably be taking off from pad 39A at Cape Canaveral, Florida—the identical pad that the Apollo astronauts left from. It’s because that pad was built to be absurdly giant since they didn’t know but how huge a rocket they’d be utilizing. If you get there, you head up the tower and throughout the bridge into the Big Freaking Spaceship.


2) Take off. You strap in, and the BFR lifts off. After a couple of minutes, the first-stage BFB separates and heads back right down to Earth. The BFS that you simply’re in continues onward and settles into Earth’s orbit.


three) Refuel in orbit. After landing again on Earth, the BFB is capped with a brand new BFS—this one filled with propellant (liquid oxygen and methane).6 It lifts off again and pings the propellant-filled spaceship into orbit, the place it rendezvouses7 together with your spaceship. The two join like two orcas holding palms as the propellant is transferred.


This occurs a couple of more occasions until your spaceship is totally refueled.8 This process is crucial A) for decreasing the price of the journey, and B) for making the journey much quicker. Individuals have all the time thought a journey to Mars would take six or nine months, however the BFS will get there in three.

four) Head to Mars. Three months of enjoyable occasions in microgravity and getting really sick of the opposite individuals on the ship.9 Through the journey, the spaceship steers using chilly fuel thrusters, powered by large photo voltaic arrays:


5) Enter the Mars environment. Time for the warmth defend to be miserable:


6) Land on Mars. Upright, the identical means the first stage lands on Earth.

7) Reside on Mars for a while doing god is aware of what. If it’s early on in the colonization course of, you’re in all probability there to work and help build up the preliminary industries. Afterward, it could possibly be anything—analysis, entrepreneurship, or simply simply journey.

8) Make propellant on Mars. This can be one of many key early industries to arrange on Mars. Propellant consists of liquid oxygen (O2) and methane (CH4), which are both conveniently straightforward to make from the huge quantities of H2O (ice) and CO2 (the primary fuel in the Martian environment) already sitting on Mars. They’ll use this propellant to load up the spaceship you came there on in preparation for its voyage back to Earth. Doing this spares the huge expense of having to hold propellant all the best way from Earth for the return trip.

9) Both stay ceaselessly or come back. When you come again, you’ll achieve this by boarding one of the BFS’s that came to visit within the last batch.

10) Land vertically on Earth. Identical to you probably did on Mars. The spaceship will go through routine upkeep in preparation to go again to Mars two years later.

11) Be that insufferable one that can’t be a part of any conversation without determining some solution to convey up your time on Mars.

Mission full.

This type-of-confusing diagram sums it up:


And this video sums it up very deliciously:

In order that’s the cope with the Big Freaking Rocket and the way it’ll all work.10

Now let’s speak about how this all may play out.

The Plan

Back to actuality. So how can we get from, “there’s this rad potential rocket that might be ready to launch in five years” to “we’re a thriving multi-planetary civilization with a million people on Mars”?

10,000 flights. That’s what number of BFS trips to Mars Elon thinks it’ll take to convey the Mars population to one million.

Why 10,000? As a result of there shall be a minimum of 100 individuals on most trips, and that quantity will go up over time—but there will even be some individuals getting back from Mars every time other individuals go. In the lower part of every BFS will probably be a huge cargo compartment. Elon thinks we’ll have to get at the very least 10 million tons of cargo to Mars for the million-person colony to turn into self-sustaining, which can occur in slightly over 10,000 flights if SpaceX can get the cargo payload capability as much as 1,000 tons comparatively shortly, as they hope to.

And when will these 10,000 trips begin?

Properly let’s check out the Mars-Earth Synodic calendar—which offers with the dates when Earth and Mars are closest to each other (referred to as a “Mars opposition”). Earth’s orbit is smaller than Mars’s, so Earth goes across the sun quicker—so much so that each 26 months, Earth laps Mars they usually’re briefly subsequent to one another. That’s the one time when Earth-Mars transfers can occur.

We’re presently fairly close to Mars, because the final Mars opposition occurred on Might 22, 2016. That’s why, in case you happen to be an “oh look there’s a way-too-bright star let me take out my Sky Guide app and figure out which planet that is and then tell everyone I’m with and find that, yet again, no one cares, because everyone is a horrible person” nerd like me, you realize that each one summer time, Mars has been super outstanding and vibrant in our night time sky.11 A yr from now, Mars can be on the opposite aspect of the sun from us, and we gained’t see it in our night time sky in any respect.

The 2016 Earth-Mars opposition can also be a particular one, as a result of it’s the final time it’ll occur with out anybody talking about it.

Why? Because starting with the subsequent one in July of 2018, SpaceX will begin sending stuff to Mars each time there’s an opposition, and it will develop into increasingly huge information each time. Right here’s the tentative schedule, if every part goes completely to plan:

Upcoming Mars Oppositions – and what SpaceX is planning for each

July, 2018: Ship a Dragon spacecraft (the Falcon 9’s SUV-size spacecraft) to Mars with cargo

October, 2020: Send a number of Dragons with extra cargo

December, 2022: Maiden BFS voyage to Mars. Carrying only cargo. This is the spaceship Elon needs to call Heart of Gold.

January, 2025: First people-carrying BFS voyage to Mars.

Let’s all go back and skim that last line again.

January, 2025: First people-carrying BFS voyage to Mars.

Did you catch that?

If things go to plan, the Neil Armstrong of Mars will touch down about eight years from now.

And 0 individuals are talking about it.

However they will be. The hype will begin a couple years from now when the Dragons make their Mars journeys, and it’ll kick into excessive gear in 2022 when the Big Freaking Spaceship lastly launches and heads to Mars and lands there. Everybody can be speaking about this.

And the excitement will just accelerate from there as the primary group of BFS astronauts are introduced and develop into household names, admired for their bravery, because everyone will know there’s an inexpensive probability one thing goes mistaken they usually don’t make it again alive. Then, in 2024 they’ll take off on a three-month trip that’ll be front-page information daily. Once they land, everybody on Earth might be watching. It’ll be 1969 yet again.

This can be a thing that’s occurring.

Elon doesn’t like when individuals ask him about this first voyage and the Neil Armstrong of Mars. He says that it’s not about humanity putting a new multi-planetary feather in its cap, and he’s quick to level out, “putting people on the moon was super exciting—but where’s our moon base?” In other words, having humanity give Mars a excessive 5 for bragging rights is just not what matters—what matters is carrying out the complete vision of truly creating a full, self-sustaining civilization on Mars.

And yeah, positive, high-quality. But I’m excited for 2025. It’s gonna be so fun.

Anyway, so then the subsequent Mars opposition will roll round in 2027. This time, if every thing stays on monitor, a number of BFS’s will make the trek to Mars, carrying more individuals than have been within the unique group in 2025. And the spaceship that went over in 2025—the area Mayflower—will make its return trip to Earth, carrying a few of the first group of Mars pioneers back house. They’ll return to large celebration as international heroes, and the legendary spaceship will head off to take pleasure in its life within the Air and Area Museum.

Meanwhile, we’ll all be glued to the TV12 as the group of BFS’s arrive on Mars, the place the individuals in them will proceed the grueling work started by the 2025 group. The early colonists may have a hard job like early colonists all the time do—and this shall be additional exhausting. Not solely will they have to really begin from scratch—digging mines and quarries and refineries, developing the first underground village habitat with the first Martian hospitals and faculties and greenhouse farms, laying down an enormous plumbing system to pump water into the village, building that first rocket propellant plant—however they’ll need to do all of this in a place where they will’t go outdoors and not using a spacesuit on, and where everybody and all the things they’ve ever recognized is on a pale blue dot in the sky.

It’ll be exhausting, however for the explorers of our world the payoff may be value it. Elon says: “You can go anywhere on Earth in 24 hours. There’s no physical frontier on Earth anymore. Now, space is that frontier, so it’ll appeal to anyone with that exploratory spirit.”

In April of 2029, SpaceX will send a fair bigger group of spacecraft, individuals, and cargo to Mars. This time, it’ll in all probability get much less consideration. By 2029, we’ll in all probability be getting used to the concept there are individuals on Mars and that every 26 months, an ideal two-way migration occurs.

The growing Mars colony will proceed to entice the adventurers—those who read concerning the nice crusing exhibitions of the 15th and 16th centuries and yearn to be there. Once I requested Elon about how the small colony will grow and evolve, he stated: “Think of the Mars colony as an organism that starts off as a zygote, and then becomes multi-cellular, and then gets organ differentiation—so it doesn’t look exactly the same all the way along, any more than the first settlement in Jamestown wasn’t representative of the United States today. It’ll be the same with Mars—Mars will be the new New World.”

The 2031 and 2033 and 2035 oppositions will convey substantially extra individuals to the brand new New World. By this level, the budding Martian metropolis might be part of our lives. We’ll comply with the Twitter feeds of some of our favorite journalists on Mars to maintain up with what’s occurring there. We’ll all get hooked on Mars’s first hit reality exhibits. And some of us will start considering, “Should I sign up to go to Mars one of these years before I get too old?”

By 2050, there will probably be over 100 thousand individuals on Mars. The company your son works for may need a branch there, and he’ll be saying goodbye to a few co-workers who’re about to go to the planet for a 52-month stint. He tells you that he doesn’t need to go because he doesn’t need to take his ninth-grade daughter away from her life and her associates. But he says she’s applying to a program that might convey her to Mars from the ages of 17 to 23 for an urban planning degree. You are worried, despite the fact that you recognize it’s irrational. It’s simply that you simply keep in mind the days when going to Mars was risky and dangerous, and a few a part of you continues to be uncomfortable with it. And what if she decides not to come again?

By 2065, the early days of Mars seem primitive. In the course of the first few Mars migrations, just a few spaceships made the trip with only 100 individuals in each, it was prohibitively costly to go, it took three months to get there, and there have been just a few very grueling industries on Mars to work in.

In 2065, each Mars opposition sees over 1,000 ships make the trip, each carrying over 500 individuals and a pair thousand tons of cargo. Half one million individuals make the journey every two years, and about 50,000 lower than that come again, as a result of Earth-to-Mars migration capability grows just a little bit every time as more ships are built. The trip, which now takes solely 30 days, prices solely $60,000 (in 2016 dollars)—and most of the people simply pay off the ticket worth with their well-paying job on Mars (labor is in excessive demand because the early Mars cities proceed to increase and new cities are built).

Many individuals keep in mind those early days of the Mars colony when it was all about SpaceX—funded by SpaceX or their cargo shoppers and pushed by their ambition and their ingenuity and their guts. But now, dozens of corporations focus on Earth-Mars transit and lots of of corporations concentrate on improvement and entrepreneurship on Mars. And transit is paid for like planes and trains and buses are paid for at the moment—by passengers buying tickets.

A decade later, the 2074 migration brings the Mars inhabitants above one million individuals. Small celebrations escape around each worlds, as a long-awaited landmark is achieved. Most people though, don’t even notice.


Every thing I just stated was based mostly on things Elon stated on my telephone call with him. A few of it was numbers he stated instantly—just like the final paragraph, which got here from him saying, “I’m hopeful that we can get to a million roughly 50 years after the start.” Other occasions it was me extrapolating a attainable future, given the predictions I heard from him. It’s all based mostly in reality. At the least, it’s based mostly in Elon Musk’s greatest crack at reality. He was very cautious to qualify every little thing that appeared like a prediction or a projection with, “This is what might happen if things go well—but there’s no way to know, and many things could go wrong along the way.” He emphasized that “it’s not that SpaceX has all the answers and we’ve got it covered or anything like that—it’s that we want to show that it’s possible. But it’s far from a given.” As for issues that would go improper, he listed off a couple of (like World Warfare III), and considered one of his largest considerations is that if he one way or the other dies young, SpaceX could possibly be taken over by someone who needs to exploit the corporate for profit as an alternative of staying single-mindedly targeted on the Mars civilization mission.

But if SpaceX can manage to get this thing began, Elon thinks it could possibly be not just a massive deal in itself, it might jumpstart a slew of latest prospects for humanity. He explains:

The massive picture isn’t simply to again up the arduous drive but to actually change humanity into a multi-planetary species. Primarily what we’re saying is we’re establishing a daily cargo path to Mars. With the financial forcing perform of interplanetary commerce, there would be the assets and the motivation to massively improve area transport know-how, and I feel then issues really go to an entire new degree.

What I’m describing might sound really loopy, nevertheless it truly can be a small fraction of what’s finally achieved, so long as we develop into a two-planet civilization. Take a look at delivery know-how in Europe. When all you needed to do was cross the Mediterranean, the ships have been pretty lame—they couldn’t cross the Atlantic. So commerce principally had short-range vessels. With out the forcing perform, delivery know-how didn’t improve that much—you would do the identical things with ships, just about, around the time of Julius Caesar as you might across the time of Columbus. 1,500 years later, you can nonetheless simply cross the Mediterranean. But as quickly as there was a purpose to cross the Atlantic, delivery know-how improved dramatically. There needed to be the American colonies to ensure that that to occur.

The individuals at SpaceX consider that when we’re on Mars, the rest of the Solar System becomes accessible as properly. That’s why they didn’t just create photographs of their Big Freaking Rocket standing proudly on Mars. They showed it flying by Jupiter.


And Saturn.


And bringing human explorers to faraway moons.



They’re planning for a time when any individual can go anyplace they want in our huge Photo voltaic System—a new golden age for exploration, with uncharted physical frontiers in every path.


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More G-rated posts from the unique Elon Musk collection:

Half 3, on SpaceX: How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars [$3 PDF]Part 4, on the factor that makes Elon so effective: The Prepare dinner and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

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