If you have ever achieved a major feat before, you would know the exhilarating feeling as you got closer to your goal! Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX, must be in such a state of euphoria as one of his most audacious projects ever is nearing completion!
Musk’s Starship, the tallest and most powerful rocket ever built, is finally ready to conquer orbit! How has SpaceX prepared the Starship for this inaugural orbit flight, and what does it mean for Musk?
In this video, we dive into all the juicy details of SpaceX finally going to orbit!
Elon Musk is among the rare individuals that inhabit the intersection of desiring to go to Mars and having access to the resources to push the dream through! Backed by the massive fortune he has acquired as the world’s wealthiest industrialist, Musk remains dogged in his ambition to make Mars a habitable place for the human race!
However, going to Mars and moving a million people there in a short period requires much more than desire and resources! It needs lots of brains and foresight. Fortunately, Musk is well endowed in these aspects as well!
The first step is to arrange the mode of transport. To move a million people over millions of miles in deep space, lots of factors have to come into play. The biggest one is the cost! Half a century of mostly theoretical analysis has made it abundantly clear that a permanent and sustainable extraterrestrial human outpost is impossible without a radical reduction in the cost of access to space. For decades, even NASA has studied and studied and studied different plans, but the cost to send a few astronauts to Mars for a few months at a time has been prohibitive! It would cost the government hundreds of billions of dollars.
This is where Musk has to play it smart! The first step is to reduce the cost of transport significantly because, even for the richest man alive, there are limits! This is why SpaceX is building the Starship, which despite being the most powerful rocket ever, will reduce the cost of accessing deep space! The trick is to make it reusable, not in part as SpaceX has been doing before with its Falcon rockets, but entirely in both stages!
This is easier said than done, though, because reusability introduces lots of omplexities due to the capacity it is intended to have! Which brings us to another factor that Musk needs to work on to make his ambitions a reality: the Starship must be very powerful! Apart from moving humans, the Starship will need to move tons of other materials ahead of the colonizers. SpaceX has released details of how the colonization will take place, and much of it revolves around the Starship!
Here is how things will work out initially for SpaceX to construct sustainable cities on Mars:
SpaceX will soon commence launching uncrewed Starships to Mars to both verify the system’s maturity and readiness and deliver significant quantities of cargo to the surface in advance of human arrival. By using a wide range of robotics, those early missions will help SpaceX characterize local resources, stage supplies, test technologies for long-duration Martian surface ops, and begin developing infrastructure – with a propellant plant likely the most pressing need. This, however, is just baby steps!
The early uncrewed missions will deliver equipment for increased power production, water extraction, LOX/methane production, pre-prepared landing pads, radiation shielding, dust control equipment, exterior shelters for humans and equipment, and more!
All these are the hardware needed to support the first human base! Without them, there is no human base on Mars! Next is the actual arrival of humans on the planet. SpaceX says for the first few years, they will live on Starships that brought them until additional habitats are available! This will then free up the Starships for other uses as needed to support the humans. The Starships will be valuable assets on the planet as they will be used for storage, habitation, scientific laboratories, and sources of refined metal structures and resources!
The crazy part of SpaceX’s plan is that the Mars-bound Starships could take off even before NASA uses the rocket to land its astronauts on the moon! Also, while the space agency will pay 2.9 billion dollars to SpaceX to use the Starship, Musk says all the funding for the Starship has been internal and does not even plan to source funds externally! At least not yet!
For the Starship to be capable of all this, particularly the part where it moves tons of cargo to prepare the harsh habitat of Mars for human habitation, it has to be powerful and resilient. And that is what the Starship is! Powered by more than thirty Raptor engines, the Starship can lift more than 100 tonnes at a time to the earth’s orbit. The
lower stage, or the Super Heavy, will return after separating, and Musk wants it to be ready for the next flight in about 30 minutes!