SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has revealed a tentative timeline of 20 years to build a habitable and sustainable base on Mars, which could also serve as the first city on the Red planet to support a local population.
With the vision of making humans an interplanetary species, Musk has proposed setting up a “self-sustaining city on Mars” with the aid of around 1,000 Starships. Each of these Starships could make at least three trips a day for Earth’s orbital transportation of goods and crew members.
Practically, the galactic planetary alignment enables us to realistically achieve Mars flight once every two years at the cost of $2 million per Starship flight. SpaceX has proposed to build and fly around 1,000 Starships to ship cargo, infrastructure, and crew to Mars over the course of around 20 years.
Each Starship’s potential of payload capacity is estimated at 1,000+ flights of cargo weighing 10 million tons (total) to Earth’s orbit every year. The current fleet of cargo-bearing spacecraft can carry just 500 tons per year while SpaceX’s Falcon rockets (around 100) could easily achieve half of that.
Musk has reiterated the importance of further developing orbital cargo transfer and refuelling stations for Moon and Mars-bound spacecraft in the next few years as SpaceX intends to accomplish both Moon and Mars expeditions by 2024.
Transporting the crew, cargo, and mission-critical components to Mars may have to wait until the 2024 Moon mission is completed. SpaceX has, however, proposed to make an early landing on the Moon’s surface in 2022 to prepare the staging ground for the upcoming lunar mission in 2024.
Landing a crew first on Mars is essential in the run-up to creating a sustainable city on the Red Planet as the same astronauts could fly back to Moon if both the missions are set for 2024 in the proper sequence.
Given Musk’s over-ambitious timelines for the Mars and Lunar missions, we should take this news with a pinch of salt. There could be unexpected delays or postponement of the Mars mission if enough Starships are not ready for the payload challenge by that time.