Elon Musk in Dragon 2 spacecraft.Elon Musk may be able to unveil SpaceX's highly anticipated Mars Colonial Transporter — which will ferry large numbers of people to the Red Planet — as early as this year, he said in a about the craft.
While SpaceX is currently known for ferrying cargo to and from the International Space Station for the astronauts aboard, that's not their ultimate goal. The design and redesign of the Falcon rocket system, and the Dragon cargo and crew capsules, are all in an effort to reach Musks ultimate goal of starting a Martian colony, of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people.
The ultimate objective is to make humanity a multiplanet species. Thirty years from now, there'll be a base on the moon and on Mars, and people will be going back and forth on SpaceX rockets.
This ambitious plan has grown into the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) project that involves a series of yet-to-be developed reusable rocket engines, launch vehicles, and space capsules capable of ferrying 100 soon-to-be Martian colonists at a time and then return to Earth for more passengers.
Details about these systems are sparse, though.
Musk gave us a little peek inside the plans during the AMA, though. Reddit user salty914 :
Goal is 100 metric tons of useful payload to the surface of Mars. This obviously requires a very big spaceship and booster system.
One metric ton is equal to 2205 pounds. A payload of 220, 500 pounds is significantly more than the 5, 200-pound payload that SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to transport to the International Space Station this Friday. An average Space Shuttle payload weighed 53, 000 pounds.
The heaviest payload ever launched weighed 260, 000 pounds and was aboard the world's tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket called the Saturn V, which carried the Apollo missions. However, this rocket only had to travel as far as low-Earth orbit, which is between 100 to 1000 miles above Earth's surface, before detaching from the capsule containing Apollo astronauts. A SpaceX reusable rocket will have to make it all the way to Mars.
Last year, SpaceX began development on the first of what will eventually be nine newly-designed rocket engines that could eventually power SpaceX's MCT, SpaceX co-founder Tom Mueller said at an "Exploring the Next Frontier: The Commercialization of Space is Lifting Off" event in February of 2014.
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