On September 27, Elon Musk announced a bold new plan to establish a permanent human habitation on Mars with his company SpaceX. It's one of the most ambitious schemes Musk — or humanity in general — has ever attempted, relying on huge advances in both rocketry and spaceship construction. Follow along here for the latest news about the project, and whether Musk can succeed in his longheld dream of bringing humanity to Mars.
Developing. Check out our SpaceX Mars Colonization liveblog for the latest updates and our storystream for all the news!
Sep 30, 2016
The race to Mars: here's how SpaceX ranks against the competition
On Tuesday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced his ambitious — if crazy — plan to colonize Mars within the next 40 to 100 years. But Musk isn’t the only one with Mars dreams and ambitions. In fact, people have been drawing out missions to the Red Planet for at least the last 70 years — and we’re still waiting for one to take flight.Read Article >
One of the early proposed missions that set the stage for today’s Mars plans was the Mars Direct proposal, which was published by aerospace engineers Robert Zubrin and David Baker in 1991. They thought it might be possible to land the first crewed mission to Mars as early as 1999. That didn’t happen of course, but some of their ideas — like sending a return vehicle to Mars before sending a human crew and making propellant from the planet’s resources — are still considered viable options.
Sep 28, 2016
Elon Musk's ideas aren't enough to turn humanity into a multi-planet species
I admit it: I'm an optimist. I wanted Elon Musk to show me a strong Mars plan with real finances and real life-support design. I was hoping he'd talked some of his billionaire friends into financing this Mars dream. I wanted the dream to be real.Read Article >
Optimists, of course, are frequently disappointed, which is why we're often mistaken for cynics. And so, listening to Musk talk about a ticket to Mars that costs less than $200,000 — the median price of a house in America — I must say: I was disappointed. That number doesn’t square with what is likely to be the enormous cost of making Mars habitable for humans.
Sep 28, 2016
The biggest lingering questions about SpaceX's Mars colonization plans
On Tuesday, thousands of people stampeded into a lecture hall in Guadalajara, Mexico, to hear SpaceX CEO Elon Musk talk about how he wants to colonize Mars. The fervor of the audience gave the room an electric charge as Musk’s speech got underway; people cheered as he avowed to create a self-sustaining Mars colony of 1 million people over the next 40 to 100 years.Read Article >
Musk dazzled the crowd with concepts for two new types of vehicles: a massive reusable rocket booster and a giant transporter to carry people and cargo to Mars. He also laid out critical details about them — such as how big they would need to be and the materials they would be made from. And we got more insight into the new powerful Raptor engine that SpaceX is building to get this plan off the ground.
Elon Musk wants to build a transit system that lets humans tour the entire Solar System
Elon Musk today announced plans for a giant rocket and spaceship that will theoretically be capable of sending humans to Mars. The theory, according to him, is that we could find a way to colonize Mars in just a century or two. In typical Musk fashion, he wasn't done there. During the latter stages of his presentation, the SpaceX CEO explained why he decided on Twitter a few weeks ago to rename the Mars Colonial Transporter to the "Interplanetary Transport System" — he wants the ITS to go so much farther beyond Mars. With a proposed 77-meter-tall rocket acting as a "javelin thrower" for the massive ITS spaceship, Musk teased the idea of SpaceX spending centuries helping humans explore the outer reaches of the Solar System.Read Article >
Musk said he settled on the word "system" in naming this architecture because it consists of four parts: the rocket, the spaceship, a fueling tanker, and "propellant depots." That last part might sound the most benign, but it's the key to getting past Mars. Since the system mostly operates on what is essentially methane fuel — something that can be generated using natural resources found in space, especially on Mars — he sees a future beyond Mars where SpaceX essentially becomes the railroad for the Solar System. Or, if you look at it another way, SpaceX will someday need to conquer a problem similar to one that Tesla, Musk's other company, currently faces — infrastructure. (On a much more massive scale, that is.) Where Model S and X drivers are heavily reliant on Tesla's ability to build out a network of Superchargers, SpaceX passengers could one day be relying on a network of filling stations that stretch across the Solar System.
Sep 27, 2016
Watch Elon Musk explain how SpaceX will colonize Mars in under five minutes
As Elon Musk is wont to do, he took the stage in front of a rabid crowd this afternoon to lay out an extraordinarily ambitious vision of the future that at times felt inspiring, brilliant, and unbelievable, if not all at once. This time around, Musk was outlining the first details for how SpaceX planned to bring people to and from Mars and ultimately facilitate human colonization of the Red Planet. The full presentation lasted an hour — longer if you count the bizarro Q&A that followed — but we've boiled the event down to under five minutes in case you're looking for more of a crash course.Read Article >
Check out the video above. For more, you can go here to see all of the news from SpaceX's event.
Sep 27, 2016
Elon Musk might name his first Mars-bound spaceship after Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Today, Elon Musk revealed his ambitious multi-decade roadmap for human colonization of Mars, including the Interplanetary Transport System he believes will get us there. But while the event was full of technical detail on the new rocket and ship, it appears the crafts have yet to be named.Read Article >
"We're thinking about names," Musk told the crowd. "The first ship that goes to Mars, my current favorite for it is Heart of Gold from The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy."
Sep 27, 2016
Alessandra Potenza and Loren Grush
Why didn't Elon Musk mention where colonists will live on Mars?
During his hour-long announcement of the SpaceX Mars colonization plan, CEO Elon Musk didn't say where exactly Martian colonists will live once they arrive on the planet — and how exactly they'll survive given the harsh environment.Read Article >
Musk seemed particularly unconcerned about solar radiation. "The radiation thing is often brought up, but it’s not too big of a deal," he says. There is a "slightly increased risk" of cancer, he says, and there will probably be some sort of shielding. He talked of creating an artificial magnetic field on Mars to deflect high-energy particles, especially to protect colonists from solar flares. But Musk didn't provide any information of how this magnetic field would be created.
SpaceX wants to be the railroad of the future
SpaceX's plans for getting people to Mars are big and still a bit vague. Its plan for helping colonists actually live there for long periods of time is even more nebulous. But company founder Elon Musk suggests the latter part is by design — because SpaceX's job is to be the railroad of the space age, opening up the Martian frontier to people who will make the most of living there. "The goal of SpaceX is really to build the transport system. It's like building the Union-Pacific Railroad," said Musk during today's event. "And once that transport system is built, then there's a tremendous opportunity for anyone who wants to go to Mars and create something new, or build the foundations of a new planet."Read Article >
"That's really where a tremendous amount of entrepreneurship and talent would flourish, just as happened in California when the Union-Pacific Railroad was completed," Musk continued. "When they were building the Union-Pacific, a lot of people [would] say, well, that's a super-dumb idea, because hardly anybody lives in California. But now today, we've got the US epicenter of technology development and entertainment, and it's the biggest state in the nation. But you need that transport link. If you can't get there, none of those opportunities exist, so our goal is just to make sure you can get there."
Sep 27, 2016
Elon Musk wants to collect fuel on Mars to send spaceships back to Earth
Elon Musk wants SpaceX to send people to Mars and then bring them back to Earth on the same rocket they came in on. Nothing has ever been launched from Mars before, and Musk didn't go into all that much detail about how SpaceX would accomplish it. But he did says that it would all hang on one thing: methane.Read Article >
Rather than carrying fuel from Earth for use on Mars, Musk wants SpaceX to create fuel when it gets there. Musk says SpaceX would rely on methane — "deep cryo-methalox," to be specific — because it can be created on Mars with "relative ease." SpaceX says it would "build a propellant farm" used to create new fuel and send its spaceships back.
Elon Musk: First humans who journey to Mars must 'be prepared to die'
Elon Musk just wrapped up an intricate and thorough presentation that covered his and SpaceX's vision of humans building a city on the surface of Mars. But throughout that talk, he didn't actually address exactly who should go. During the Q&A session that followed, the question inevitably came up: what sort of person does Musk think will volunteer to get strapped to that big rocket and fired toward the Red Planet? "Who should these people be, carrying the light of humanity to Mars for all of us?" an audience member asked. "I think the first journeys to Mars will be really very dangerous," answered Musk. "The risk of fatality will be high. There's just no way around it." The journey itself would take around 80 days, according to the plan and ideas that Musk put forward.Read Article >
"Are you prepared to die? If that's okay, then you're a candidate for going," he added. But Musk didn't want to get stuck talking about the risks and immense danger. "This is less about who goes there first... the thing that really matters is making a self-sustaining civilization on Mars as fast as possible. This is different than Apollo. This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure," he said.
Sep 27, 2016
Elon Musk made a South Park joke at his Mars colonization announcement
How will Elon Musk and SpaceX fund its ambitious plan to go to Mars? The question was a big one coming into today's announcement, and Musk opted to suggest some kind of "public-private partnership" would generate the necessary cash. But first, he made a South Park joke.Read Article >
When talk turned to funding, Musk moved along to a slide that started with "Steal Underpants" and ended with "Profit." (In between: "Kickstarter.") The slide was a reference to a season two episode of South Park, where the boys uncover a bizarre conspiracy involving gnomes stealing underpants. When confronted about the reasoning behind the plan, a gnome replies: "Phase one: collect underpants. Phase two: [pauses, points to question mark]. Phase three: profit."
Sep 27, 2016
Elon Musk’s proposed spaceship could send 100 people to Mars in 80 days
Today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Mars vehicle — the spaceship his company plans to build to transport the first colonists to Mars. The spaceship is meant to launch from Earth on top of the booster and then travel the rest of the way on its own to the Red Planet.Read Article >
Though not finalized, the first spaceship will probably be named "Heart of Gold," a reference to the spacecraft in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It will have a diameter of 17 meters.
Sep 27, 2016
Sean O'Kane and Loren Grush
SpaceX’s planned Mars rocket will be reused 1,000 times
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has unveiled the design for the giant rocket booster he wants to build in order to colonize Mars. It is part of what SpaceX is referring to as the "Mars Vehicle" — the rocket booster and the Mars spaceship combined — and Musk announced it on stage in Guadalajara, Mexico at the 67th International Astronautical Conference.Read Article >
SpaceX teased the rocket in a promo video released shortly before Musk's talk. The massive, single-core rocket will be responsible for launching a huge spaceship filled with 100 metric tons of passengers and cargo from Earth. To do this, it is capable of generating 28,730,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff, resulting in a top speed of about 5,375 miles per hour. It will use 42 of SpaceX's new Raptor engines, the first of which was tested earlier this week.
Elon Musk says it would take 40 to 100 years to build a self-sustaining civilization on Mars
Elon Musk thinks that it would take between 40 and 100 years for humanity to go from landing a ship full of colonists on Mars to establishing a self-sustaining civilization. At his company SpaceX's event today, Musk laid out how a fleet of ships that could carry a minimum of 100 people, flying every two years, could populate a Martian city:Read Article >
A few hours ago, Musk announced a new "Interplanetary Transport System" that's theoretically capable of sending humans to Mars at a cost of around $200,000 a person, instead of billions of dollars. Of course, all of SpaceX's plans involve a lot of speculation — and as Musk's statement above shows, they will take many decades to come to fruition, even if everything goes right.
Sep 27, 2016
Elon Musk says the only reason he wants to make money is to colonize Mars
Elon Musk's ambitious plan to turn the human race into a multi-planetary species, starting first with the colonization of Mars, will cost a lot of money. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, who laid out his Mars plans today at a press conference, hopes to eventually make the cost of taking a trip to Mars equal that of the average US home, at around $200,000 per ticket. Still, there's a long road ahead to funding the complex architecture of a stable Earth-Mars transportation system.Read Article >
To cement his commitment to the project, Musk says the only reason he's personally accumulating wealth — through his various ventures in renewable energy, electric cars, and space transport, is to help make this radical idea a reality. "As we show that this is possible, that this dream is real, I think the support will snowball over time," Musk said onstage today at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. "The main reason I’m personally accumulating assets is to fund this."
Sep 27, 2016
Elon Musk is talking about going to Mars like it's an Apple event
Elon Musk is holding a massive event today to reveal his plans to eventually travel to and colonize Mars, and while his real audience was NASA and the government, that didn’t stop him from going all-out in production value. Specifically, the similarities between Elon presenting his plans and the way Steve Jobs presented the technology decisions that went into various iconic Apple products was note-perfect — just look at how Elon compared the various options for propellants and how Jobs compared the various storage options available for the first iPod:Read Article >
And here’s Musk presenting a spec sheet for Mars compared to Earth:
Elon Musk says taking a Mars trip should cost the same as buying a house
One day many, many years from now, Elon Musk believes the cost of taking a trip to Mars will be about the same as buying a house. During today's keynote, the SpaceX CEO said that visiting Mars should be equal to the median cost of a home in the United States, which is around $200,000. Musk said that reaching such a price through the use of "traditional methods" for space travel would be impossible. Using those established means, it would be closer to $10 billion per person, which is completely out of reach for many people who might otherwise be willing to uproot their lives and make such a daring trip.Read Article >
Musk is currently giving a presentation on what it will take for humans to colonize Mars and build a city on the Red Planet. This is one man's vision, of course, so that $200,000 figure involves a big dose of guesswork. The SpaceX chief said that fitting between 100 and 200 passengers on each Mars-bound flight will bring down the trip cost for each individual traveler. And as more and more trips are completed — again, we're talking probably a century into the future here — the cost-per-ton will continue to drop. "The cost of moving to Mars ultimately could drop below $100,000," Musk said.
SpaceX unveils the Interplanetary Transport System, a spaceship and rocket to colonize Mars
Private spaceflight company SpaceX has released a video that details its long-awaited "Interplanetary Transport System." The video was published less than an hour before CEO Elon Musk was scheduled to detail the system at the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico.Read Article >
The video appears to show SpaceX's new rocket — the BFR, or "Big Fucking Rocket" — as well as the company's interplanetary spaceship — the BFS, or "Big Fucking Spaceship."
Sep 27, 2016
Elon Musk’s Mars colonization announcement: start time, live blog, and streaming
Today, Elon Musk will finally tell the world how he wants to colonize Mars — an ambition of his that has served as the foundation for essentially all of his commercial spaceflight endeavors. Musk will specify his plans for making humans a multi-planetary species during a one-hour speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. The event is scheduled for 2:30PM ET, and will hopefully provide more insight into Musk’s colonization plans, which have been something of a mystery up until now.Read Article >
Musk has given some hints about his vision though. We know there are key pieces of hardware he wants to build to bring settlers to the Red Planet, including a massive rocket and a spaceship for transporting passengers and cargo. And late Sunday night, Musk gave us a sneak peek of the new powerful engine that those vehicles will use: the Raptor. SpaceX just conducted its first full-scale test of the Raptor engine, which is expected to be about as powerful as one of the main engines that powered the Space Shuttle. If all goes to plan, multiple raptor engines will help propel the first SpaceX settlers to Mars.
Sep 27, 2016
Elon Musk has a lot to prove at today’s Mars colonization announcement
Elon Musk will present the world with SpaceX’s plans for Mars colonization today in Guadalajara, Mexico — what should be the victorious presentation of a dream project. But he doesn’t have the money to get to Mars alone. So today he must either announce a substantial financial partner or woo one, in the face of a very recent SpaceX rocket explosion.Read Article >
Musk’s SpaceX has relied on being a low-cost, reliable alternative to other aerospace companies, like the United Launch Alliance. SpaceX’s biggest customer is NASA, and the company is set to shuttle astronauts to the ISS in late 2017 or early 2018. But here’s the rub: Musk is announcing his Mars plans well before he’s successfully launched a single human being to space, and immediately in the wake of a launch-pad accident. He has an unnervingly ambitious schedule for the first human mission to Mars, he’s said nothing about how much it will cost or who’s paying, and there’s been no mention of any partnerships with space agencies or suppliers for material.
Sep 26, 2016
Elon Musk's Mars colonization plans: what we know so far
In less than a week, SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk will finally explain how he plans to colonize Mars within the next few decades. It’s a goal that he has adamantly championed for years, though he hasn’t given many specifics about it. That will change on September 27th, when Musk is expected to talk about the vehicles and technologies needed to bring people to the Red Planet, and then build a long-term settlement there.Read Article >
For many, the lecture is long overdue. Musk has been very vocal about his desire to put people on Mars, arguing that it’s necessary for human survival. "I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen," Elon told Aeon Magazine in 2014.
Sep 26, 2016
SpaceX test-fires the engines that could take humans to Mars
SpaceX has conducted its first firing test of its Raptor engine, the powerful propulsion system that the company aims to use to take humans to Mars. SpaceX boss Elon Musk tweeted pictures of the tests late last night, sharing one image that showed a steady stream of flame emanating from the engine, and another showing "Mach diamonds" — patterns formed in the exhaust plumes of supersonic craft.Read Article >
Musk has been has been fairly vague on Raptor specifications so far, but tweeted a few extra details after last night's tests, confirming production goals and chamber pressure. Previously the SpaceX CEO has indicated that Raptor engines will deliver about 500,000 pounds of liftoff thrust — about as much as the Space Shuttle's main engines — and will use liquid methane rather than kerosene. Full-scale Raptor engines first arrived at SpaceX's testing facility in McGregor, Texas, earlier this year, but lots still isn't known about the technology, including how many will be used to launch SpaceX's interplanetary spacecraft, the BFS.
Sep 24, 2016
How science fiction has imagined colonizing our Solar System and beyond
Next week, Elon Musk is slated to make a big announcement about SpaceX’s most ambitious goal to date: the colonization of Mars. Musk has never shied away from the science fictional aspects of his ventures, and it’s a very safe assumption that genre works have played some role in his outlook on the world.Read Article >
Colonization in particular has been a long-standing part of science fiction, whether it’s an explicit goal of the story or not. There’s countless stories about brave settlers setting down on worlds unknown, to help firm up humanity’s foothold in the universe. Indeed, the SpaceX founder has said on more than one occasion that he wants to make sure that humanity has a backup plan in case of a catastrophic accident.