Elon Musk plans to land at least two cargo ships on Mars by 2022 – using a rocket he claims will also be able to take humans anywhere on Earth within an hour.
The billionaire tech entrepreneur unveiled his updated plans for colonising the Red Planet at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.
“I feel fairly confident we can build the ship and be ready for the launch in five years. Five years seems like a long time for me,” the SpaceX CEO, who also revealed plans for a lunar base, said.
Musk wants ships carrying crews to Mars to arrive in 2024, with the cargo ships having placed power, mining and life-support infrastructure there two years before.
SpaceX currently has a fleet of three spacecraft, which the Tesla boss wants to make obsolete.
Instead, Musk told the audience his company will begin stockpiling the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon spacecrafts, and put all of its resources into building the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) – codenamed the BFR, or “Big F***ing Rocket”.
Musk believes SpaceX can finance its Mars ambitions from its current work launching satellites and servicing the International Space Station (ISS).
The 46-year-old unveiled the combo rocket and spaceship at the same conference last year, but announced a stripping back of the BFR to contain fewer main engines, 31 – while he also released a concept video showing the spacecraft’s potential journey between New York and Shanghai.
“BFR will take you anywhere on Earth in less than 60 mins,” Musk wrote on Twitter. The video added that “most long distance trips” would take less than 30 minutes.
SpaceX plans to start building the first spaceship, which Musk said is the company’s cheapest yet, by the middle of 2018.
The ITS would be capable of carrying around 100 people spread out over 40 cabins, including common areas and an entertainment system.
Musk also shared concept images of the spacecraft landed on Mars, next to a human settlement, telling people in Adelaide he wanted to make the Red Planet “a nice place to be” with a sustainable human population of around one million.
“I can’t think of anything more exciting than being out there among the stars,” he said.
It adds to the list of Musk’s other outlandish-sounding ventures, which includes Hyperloop, a system intended to carry humans through tubes in pressurised cabins at speeds of around 600mph, and Neuralink – a startup exploring how to connect the human brain to computers.