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SpaceX will colonise Mars in the next few years, says boss Elon Musk

The company also hopes to build a moon base

Andrew Griffin
Friday 29 September 2017 11:09 BST
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Billionaire entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX Elon Musk speaks at the 68th International Astronautical Congress 2017 in Adelaide on September 29, 2017
Billionaire entrepreneur and founder of SpaceX Elon Musk speaks at the 68th International Astronautical Congress 2017 in Adelaide on September 29, 2017 (Getty)

Elon Musk will colonise Mars within the next few years, he has said.

The SpaceX boss hopes his company can land at least two cargo ships on Mars by 2022. And humans will come just a couple of years after that, he said, ready to make use of the power and infrastructure that will be dropped by the autonomous craft.

They’ll be carried there by SpaceX rockets – the same ones that he hopes will carry people around the world in less than half an hour, potentially replacing plane travel.

Mr Musk has previously suggested that he could detonate nuclear weapons on Mars to get its atmosphere ready for human habitation. But, at least at first, the people will live in specially created bases on the red planet.

The billionaire space fanatic announced the plans as part of an update on his hopes for colonising the solar system using rockets. As well as travelling around the Earth and to the red planet, he said that we are already too late to be building a moon base, a problem he said he would fix.

Much of that work will be done within the next five years, he said – an aim that he suggested might even be a little conservative.

“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,” Mr Musk said.

SpaceX currently has a fleet of three spacecraft, which the Tesla boss wants to become obsolete.

Instead, Mr 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****** Rocket”.

Mr 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,” Mr 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 Mr 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.

Mr Musk also shared concept images of the spacecraft landed on Mars, next to a human settlement, saying 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 Mr 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.

Additional reporting by agencies

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