Most everyone knew that SpaceX CEO and generally spaced-out billionaire Elon Musk had ambitious space travel plans. But a recent conference in Mexico reported on by the BBC and focused on the subject of space travel, he gave the public a more detailed look at his ambitions. Impressively, this included a timeline for sending humans to Mars through what he calls the Interplanetary Transport System, which he expects to have operational by 2022.
If you hope to be among the first humans to travel to Mars, that gives you about seven years to save up your money, but it's not yet known exactly how much a trip to Mars will cost. For Musk's part, he hopes to bring it down from an estimated $10 million using today's technology to something a little more affordable:
"The architecture allows for a cost per ticket of less than $200,000. We think that the cost of moving to Mars ultimately could drop below $100,000."
The plan is for about 100 passengers to be on the first trip, taking a reusable rocket all 34 million miles up to Mars at 19,000 miles per hour. By my calculations, that's a trip of about 74 days, and if you're thinking that such a thing is technologically impossible, you're right: By Musk's own admission, the tech to accomplish it still needs to be developed, and he and his company will require a lot of outside funding to achieve it. Ultimately, the goal is for SpaceX rockets to facilitate the establishment of a permanent human colony on Mars, one that will hopefully not have an air scarcity problem like in Total Recall.
Depending on who you ask, it's either foolhardy or good business to set a deadline before the technology you need to do the job has even been developed, but the United States did something very similar during the space race in the 1960s, so perhaps Musk knows what he's doing after all. In the meantime, he's going to need a lot of money, and also technological know-how from organizations like NASA, which Musk is reportedly interest in enlisting to help him achieve this historic feat. In any case, the unveiling of the Interplanetary Transport System is a much better reason for Elon Musk and SpaceX to make headlines following the explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket early last month.