Space

Elon Musk publishes 15-page manifesto outlining how to get humanity to Mars

Elon Musk publishes 15-page ma...
Elon Musk has published a 15-page paper outlining his approach to getting humanity to Mars
Elon Musk has published a 15-page paper outlining his approach to getting humanity to Mars
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An artist impression of our colonization of Mars
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An artist impression of our colonization of Mars
Testing of one of the Raptor engines that will power the ship to Mars
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Testing of one of the Raptor engines that will power the ship to Mars
This is the giant carbon-fiber fuel tank SpaceX developed to get the giant rockets to Mars
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This is the giant carbon-fiber fuel tank SpaceX developed to get the giant rockets to Mars
Artist's impression of the approach to Mars
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Artist's impression of the approach to Mars
A look inside the giant carbon fiber fuel tank
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A look inside the giant carbon fiber fuel tank
Musk envisions a series of fuel depots across the solar system allowing for flexible interplanetary travel
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Musk envisions a series of fuel depots across the solar system allowing for flexible interplanetary travel
Elon Musk has published a 15-page paper outlining his approach to getting humanity to Mars
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Elon Musk has published a 15-page paper outlining his approach to getting humanity to Mars

Last year, billionaire SpaceX founder and space-fan Elon Musk delivered an expansive, hour-long presentation, outlining his ambitious plan to get humanity to the Red Planet. Musk has recently published a research paper adapted from that presentation entitled "Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species".

The 15-page paper, published in the journal New Space, and available for free until early July, doesn't offer a great deal of new information that wasn't presented last year, but it certainly reads like a solid manifesto from a man who is very serious about colonizing our solar system.

"So how do we figure out how to take you to Mars and create a self-sustaining city," asks Musk, "a city that is not merely an outpost but which can become a planet in its own right, allowing us to become a truly multi-planetary species."

Artist's impression of the approach to Mars
Artist's impression of the approach to Mars

The paper is certainly a compelling read, covering in reasonable detail the engineering challenges in getting to Mars and the realistic costs per person. Musk also reiterates several exciting benchmarks in his timeline that will take us to Mars, with the first unmanned payloads being delivered to the Red Planet within the next two years.

"We are going to try to send something to Mars on every Mars rendezvous from this point on," predicts Musk. "We plan to send Dragon 2, which is a propulsive lander, to Mars in a couple of years, and then probably do another Dragon mission in 2020."

Musk is nothing if not ambitious, and his paper goes even further to examine the potential for traveling beyond just Mars. He envisions a series of in situ propellant depots, from the asteroid belt to Europa or Titan, allowing humanity full access to the greater Solar System.

Musk envisions a series of fuel depots across the solar system allowing for flexible interplanetary travel
Musk envisions a series of fuel depots across the solar system allowing for flexible interplanetary travel

"Therefore, you could travel out to the Kuiper Belt, to the Oort cloud," writes Musk. "I would not recommend this for interstellar journeys, but this basic system –provided we have filling stations along the way – means full access to the entire greater solar system."

Interestingly, Musk's paper does not investigate where geographically on Mars he proposes to start his settlement. Considering he may only be a few years away from beginning to transport payloads to the surface of the planet ahead of human visitation, this is presumably a vital detail to consider. Our investigations last year found three promising spots that could be ideal for humanity's first footprints.

While the paper is still probably a bit more utopian sci-fi than hard science, it is a great deal more detailed than the usual 140 character tweet-prophecies we usually get from Musk. Time will tell if Musk actually gets to Mars, but it is clear this is a man very excited about the prospect of taking humanity off-Earth, and he's willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Source: "Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species", New Space

19 comments
Nik
Mr Musk may well 'put his money where his mouth is,' but will he put his mouth where his money is, and be the first to put a foot on Mars, or will he expect others to put their lives where his money is? However, it takes men with courage, and the cash to put their dreams into reality. I wish his ideas every success. The survival techniques that can be learned from his ventures may well be needed, and serve humanity well into the future.
Derek Howe
He has said that he would like to go to Mars, well, technically he has said "I would like to be born on Earth & die on Mars, just not on impact". So he'll likely go someday, but I'd bet it's at least a decade after the first boot prints.
John Kline Kurtz
Hmmm... travel to the mythical Oort cloud... this makes me question his credibility. He needs to think it through a lot better or question some of his assumptions a little more.
Bob
Sounds like just another sales pitch to me. Tell people what they want to hear, get them to invest, and then make out like a bandit. I'm still waiting for the cheap electric car.
MartinVoelker
I appreciate Musk's motivation for this endeavor which goes beyond adventurism. The reason he wants to make us a multi-planetary species is because any number of planetary mishaps could wipe out humanity. All our eggs are in the basket we call Earth, and a lot of basket cases make our survival uncertain (nuclear war, runaway climate chaos), to say nothing of meteor strikes, orbitals shifts or magnetic field reduction. In essence he urges us to work on a Plan B.
Smart Man
The huge elephant in the room: there is little scientific evidence on whether the gravity on Mars is enough (or not enough) for humans and our preferred animals and plants. We know Earth gravity is enough. We know "zero gravity" is not enough. We have very little data in between. This module and associated experiments were cancelled: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrifuge_Accommodations_Module We should do such experiments first before even considering sending humans to Mars especially for long term stays. If it turns out Mars gravity is insufficient then it is better to consider human colonies in various orbits than on the surface of Mars. With our current tech levels it is easier to fake suitable gravity in orbit/"space" than on the surface of Mars. In this scenario there wouldn't be much point orbiting Mars. You might as well orbit a suitable asteroid or the Earth. The 5km/sec escape velocity of Mars and near zero atmosphere also will make it more expensive for trade and supplies.
JackCobin
Why?
Bob Stuart
As far as I can tell, the only thing attractive about real estate on Mars is that it is cheaper than Antartica, but we have not even managed to isolate a biosphere on Earth. A house with no outside doors has zero appeal to me. We would only "live" there to score stupid points with any extraterrestrials out there.
JimFox
How I wish Elon Musk would invest his money, drive, intellect and business nous in Thorium reactor development and stop this Mars nonsense. I'm amazed he has been the ONLY driving force behind electric mobility yet had done nothing about generating clean energy. And I don't mean wind, solar or water, these are very poor in energy density compared to a LFTR. What a tragedy that the first of these was operational for 4 years in the 60's at Oak Ridge, then closed down for [mainly] political reasons... and nothing done for some 40 years!
ezeflyer
In a world of conflict and danger, I want to thank Elon Musk for offering us hope. His planet friendly technologies and achievements are a great source of inspiration. He has shown that avoiding risk leads nowhere. And the Universal Basic Income he backs can make us the risk takers that bring about innovation and progress. Go Elon!