Elon Musk is a technology entrepreneur and visionary who has already had a seismic impact on our society, but his Mars project could well define him as one of the most influential people of the century.
Musk isn’t content with the aim of simply reaching Mars, instead he is harbouring hopes of building a sustainable base on the Red Planet that can serve as a city that supports a local population.
However, is the vision laid out by Musk beyond the realms of reality, or can he really deliver on his objectives?
The South African businessman made some projections regarding both the timeline and cost involved in relation to creating a city on Mars in which humans could live during a Q&A session with his followers on Twitter.
The CEO of SpaceX and electric automotive company Tesla said that in order to make the sustainable city on Mars a reality they will need to construct around 1,000 Starships, the cost of one Starship flight is being estimated at $2 million.
According to Musk they need to build that many Starships to transport cargo, infrastructure and crew to Mars, which will be conducted over the course of 20 years, since planetary alignment really only allows for a realistically achievable flight to Mars once every two years. The design of the Starships is intended for maximize re-use, and ideally would be able to fly up to three times per-day.
Musk is envisioning a future where orbital space is a much busier place, and a staging ground for orbital cargo transfer and refueling as Moon and Mars-bound spacecraft ready themselves for the outward journey.
However, in a bid to create a sustainable city on Mars, the first task SpaceX has to address is ensuring we get a crewed flight. There’s also another step between now and then, which is successfully landing astronauts back on the Moon.
NASA has targeted 2024 as its goal for that milestone, and SpaceX has said it hopes to land Starship there by as early as 2022 to help with staging in preparation for that landing. In the past, Musk has discussed crewed Mars mission also taking place as early as 2024, but that goal appears to mighty aspirational to say the least.