At 140 a mile, how does Elon Musks moon trip compare with other journeys?

From car to rail, its hard to find a terrestrial journey that matches SpaceXs astronomical cost

It is a stratospheric sum but it does, at least, include the return journey. Elon Musk, the billionaire American transport visionary, has suggested that the first, so far unnamed, passengers on his SpaceX flight round the moon will pay about $70m (56m).

Musk says the journey, tentatively scheduled for 2018 on an untested Falcon Heavy rocket, will cover up to 400,000 miles, although the Apollo 13 crew, on their trip to the moon in 1970, were a record 248,655 miles from Earth, so this figure seems modest if anything. Either way, 400,000 miles (about 16 times the circumference of Earth) for 56m is equal to about 140 a mile, which is easier to fathom. But how does it compare with terrestrial journeys?

Rail: The priciest rail ticket in the UK, the home of extortionate rail travel, is reportedly 501 for the 480-mile anytime return from Shanklin on the Isle of Wight to Buxton in Derbyshire (includes the ferry). Thats a little more than 1 a mile. The most expensive season ticket by distance, from Harlow Town in Essex to London Liverpool Street, is less than 40p a mile for a full-time worker.

Car: A Ferrari F12tdf has the joint worst fuel economy, according to US government figures, with as little as 12 miles a gallon. At current pump prices, that equates to about 45p a mile. Even adding depreciation, insurance and the 340,000 cost of the car its a lot cheaper than space.

Bus: Buses are cheap, right? Not if you take the No 47 from Lewisham Park in south-east London to Lewisham Hospital, 135 metres up the road. At 1.50 that equates to almost 18 a mile.

Air: You would think air travel comes close, but the worst damage you can do on an airliner is a 55,000 return ticket from London to Melbourne (20,000 miles total) in Etihads penthouse suite. But thats only 2.75 a mile.

Tube: The closest you can get to matching the cost of lunar travel is on the London Underground. The shortest Tube journey is the 350 metres, from Covent Garden to Leicester Square. A cash ticket costs 4.90, which equates to almost 23 a mile, about a sixth of the cost of a trip to the moon and back and a lot quicker.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/science/shortcuts/2017/feb/28/140-pound-mile-elon-musk-moon-trip-spacex-compare-terrestrial-journeys

Elon Musk reveals new details about the SpaceX Mars mission

We’re going to Mars. And we’re bringing tunneling droids.

Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

In September, at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk revealed a grand plan to visit and, eventually, populate Mars.

The Q&A session after the event was lacking to say the least, but now, during a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session late Sunday, Musk shared a number of details about the company’s ambitious plans to conquer Mars.

This time around, Musk was able to skip the silliness and focus on highly technical aspects of the mission. For space exploration/rocketry enthusiasts, the AMA session is a gold mine. Musk talks about exotic materials that need to be used for the mission and the properties of the Falcon 9 rocket that will take the first human crew to Mars. He also shares some details about that huge carbon fiber tank SpaceX has built to store oxygen.

There are a few nuggets of information for those who aren’t interested in the nuts and bolts (literally) of SpaceX’s rockets. In one answer, Musk gives a rough timeline of how the first couple of missions to Mars would look like.

We are still far from figuring this out in detail, but the current plan is:

Send Dragon scouting missions, initially just to make sure we know how to land without adding a crater and then to figure out the best way to get water for the CH4/O2 Sabatier Reaction.

Heart of Gold spaceship flies to Mars loaded only with equipment to build the propellant plant.

First crewed mission with equipment to build rudimentary base and complete the propellant plant.

Try to double the number of flights with each Earth-Mars orbital rendezvous, which is every 26 months, until the city can grow by itself

In another answer, he explains that the industrial operations on Mars would largely take place underground, while the people would live on surface in glass/carbon-fiber domes (yes, exactly like every 1960s sci-fi illustration you’ve ever seen). The underground bits, he claims, would be dug out by tunneling droids.

Initially, glass panes with carbon fiber frames to build geodesic domes on the surface, plus a lot of miner/tunneling droids. With the latter, you can build out a huge amount of pressurized space for industrial operations and leave the glass domes for green living space.

Musk also talks a little about the multitude of references to SF classics in SpaceX’s naming schemes and designs. The ITS booster had to have 42 engines (42 is known as “the answer to life, universe and everything” in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) for “scientific and fictional reasons,” Musk claims.

The ITS spacecraft name, which is short for Interplanetary Transport System, will likely be changed in the future, as it “just isn’t working,” according to Musk. The name replaced the old one Mars Colonial Transporter when Musk revealed that the spacecraft would be able to carry humans beyond Mars.

By Musk’s own admission, practically none of what he laid out during the AMA session is set in stone at this stage. Perhaps the most revealing is Musk’s painfully honest answer to the question which technologies has the company mastered at this point:

“Not sure that we’ve really mastered anything yet. Maybe starting engines…,” he wrote.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/10/24/elon-musk-mars-reddit-ama/

Elon Musk has ambitious plans for Mars. Are they as crazy as they sound?

The SpaceX founder has become the face of entrepreneurial space exploration and ambition. What does the established space science community think of him?

Entrepreneur Elon Musk has set himself an ambitious timeline for the colonization of Mars. The South Africa-born magnate estimates that his private space company, SpaceX, will launch its first manned mission in 2024 one decade sooner than Nasas ambitions.

Musk will grace the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Tuesday, unveiling his plans to send humans to Mars in a keynote talk titled Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species. He will outline what SpaceX deems to be a good approach for establishing a city on the red planet.

Its going to sound pretty crazy, Musk said when he announced his keynote in April. So it should at least be entertaining.

Elon Musk reveals how he wants to colonise Mars

Despite Musks optimism, its hard to forget that less than a month ago, SpaceXs flagship spacecraft exploded before launch the latest in a series of mishaps for the company. The massive fireball that erupted on 1 September destroyed both the rocket and the Facebook satellite it was carrying as cargo. Elon Musk described the disaster as the companys most difficult and complex failure so far.

The incident begs the question: is Musk being overly ambitious?

Musks spiraling ambitions within the space sector are lauded by Silicon Valley, with commentators frequently comparing him to eponymous Iron Man superhero Tony Stark. His nimble, fail-fast approach to building rockets contrasts with the sluggish bureaucracy of government-funded programs, something Musk celebrates, famously telling an interviewer at Fast Company in 2005: Theres a silly notion that failures not an option at Nasa. Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.

However, in the wake of the latest explosion, some are questioning whether SpaceX will be able to reliably deliver cargo supplies to the International Space Station, let alone take people to Mars.

Former Nasa administrator Scott Pace, now director of the Space Policy Institute in Washington, thinks the setback could cost SpaceX business. No doubt SpaceX will fix the problems, but if youre a customer time is money. This will get customers looking at alternatives. It may give competitors an opening and slow down SpaceX, he told the New York Times.

John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute, is less concerned. Its a setback but not a major one. Its all part of the normal process of a developing space launch.

Space industry analyst Greg Autry agreed. It looks like its not a major setback for anyone other than the satellites owner, he said.

Peter Diamandis, founder of the XPrize and asteroid-mining company Planetary Resources, knows Elon Musk and SpaceX well. He played down the explosion, calling Falcon 9 one of the most extraordinary launch vehicles ever designed and built.

The thing that most people dont realize is that vehicle is designed and integrated completely vertically inside the company. They understand and own every line of software, every sensor, and they will figure this out and get over this, he said.

SpaceX expects to launch Falcon 9 again as soon as November.

SpaceX test ends in explosion days before planned launch

Logsdon, Diamandis and Autry all agree that Musks timeline for a 2024 launch for the first manned mission to Mars is optimistic.

History has shown hes not typically been able to move the world along as fast as hed like to, but he does move the world along, Autry said.

Even if hes off by 50%, its still 2028 and before any government is conceiving of doing this, Diamandis added.

SpaceXs mission sets apart from traditional players within the space sector such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Its not just a defense contractor, it has a mission and transformative purpose to make the human race a multiplanetary species, Diamandis said.

Theres a much bigger driver here than just profitability. Thats something the traditional space industry cant achieve, he added. That vision is intoxicating and powerful.

Musks long-term vision can cut through the budgetary cycles of different presidencies in a way that Nasa, which is dependent on the White House science budget, cant.

Theres no Congress to convince, no shareholders to convince. Just him as an individual CEO with a conviction and the personal wealth to fund it, Diamandis said.

As a result, SpaceX has pursued been able to develop technologies such as reusable rockets and methane-fuelled engines required for reaching deep space. SpaceX is taking a level of risk and driving innovation on their own dime far faster than the government would ever contract for, explained Diamandis.

Such purpose-driven engineering echoes the approach of NASA during the Space Race, when the US government was intent on beating the Soviets to the Moon. However, the US government has since become much more risk averse, said Diamandis. NASA is a little bit lost in some ways.

Thats not to say that SpaceX hasnt relied on government funding to get to where it is. The reality is that SpaceX exists today because NASA gave them a billion dollar contract for the Commercial Crew Program, Diamandis said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/27/elon-musk-spacex-mars-exploration-space-science

Elon Musk Announces His Plan to Colonize Mars and Save Humanity

Elon Musk wants to go to Mars. And he wants youespecially if you are a NASA string-puller or deep-pocketed futuristto help him get there.

Sporting Tony Stark facial hair, Musk outlined SpaceX‘s plan today at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. It involves a slew of new technology: gigantic, reusable rockets; carbon fiber fuel tanks; ultra-powered engines. Plus spaceships capable of carrying a hundred or more passengers to the Red Planet, landing, then returning to Earth to pick up more. Musk doesn’t just want to go to Mars: He wants to build a civilization there. Which means he’ll need all that sweet gear to make it cheap enough to work.

By Musk’s admittedly loose estimates, buying yourself a single ticket to Mars right now (using non-existent tech) would probably cost around $10 billion. The same amount of cash could buy you a few square blocks in Midtown Manhattan. But once the so-called SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System is fully operational, he estimates that a person will be able to travel to the Red Planet for around $200,000, roughly the same as a two-bedroom in Madison, Wisconsin. The ITSMusk says the name needs some workshoppingwould accomplish these cost cuts primarily with lighter materials, stronger rockets, and reusable technology.

Take a ride with Elon through his Martian fantasy. You and 99 or more other passengers board a huge crew vessel atop a massive new rocketcombined, they are about as tall as a 40-story building. Forty-two Raptor engines rumble to life below, and soon you and your fellow pilgrims are gunning through the upper atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour. After depositing you in orbit, the first stage booster drops back to Earth, and flies itself back to the launchpad at Cape Canaveral. After some indeterminate refurbing, a crane attaches another spaceship on top. Except this one has no people. It’s full of fuel. The rocket launches again, and releases the spaceship, which meets your spaceship in orbit and transfers its fuel load into your ship’s tanks. Repeat a few times until your ship is topped off. Then, you head for Mars.

Thanks to six vacuum-optimized engines accelerating your ship to about 19,014 mph, you and the other pilgrims will reach Mars in just over three months. Along the way, you guys will have so much fun playing zero-G games, watching movies, hanging out in the on-board pizza shop. (Elon. Seriously.) “It will be like, really fun to go, youll have a great time,” Musk insists. (Several years of submarine service leave me slightly skeptical that any amount of pizza and zero-G can turn “locked in a tube” into a “great time,” but who cares, off to Mars!)

Upon arrival, heat shields on the ship’s belly will create mild friction with Mars’ scant atmosphere to help you brake. But the real stopping power will come from supersonic retropropulsionbasically, firing engines at the planet in the same way SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets. Except this ship will be going many, many times faster than that, and the crew capsule is way heavier. Then again, Mars’ gravity is about one-third that of Earth’s, so maybe everything will be cool. Hell, I’m not a physicist, people. Welcome to your new home!

OK, cool. Why are you here again? Saving humanity. As Musk put it at the beginning of his speech: “I really think there are two fundamental paths [for humans]: One path is we stay on Earth forever, and some eventual extinction event wipes us out.”

What!?

“I dont have a doomsday prophesy.”

OK, whew.

“But history suggests some doomsday event will happen.”

Elon, that’s by definition a doomsday prophesy!

“The alternative is, become a spacefaring and multi-planetary species.”

Mars, he points out, is one of the best bets for setting up humanity’s Battlestar Galactica starter kit. Its close by, it has lots of water (frozen beneath the surface). For farming, the atmosphere is has vital nutrients like carbon dioxide and nitrogen. And the gravity is just 37 percent that of Earth, which means youd be able to lift friggin’ anything and dunk like Michael in Space Jam. Plus, red never goes out of style.

And importantly, ITS is not a one-way system. Using methane fuel harvested from the Martian regolith, Musk says, the spaceship would be able to lift free from Mars’ weak gravity and return to Earth. This part of the plan is crucial to cutting those interplanetary costs. If commercial aircraft werent reusable, a red eye might cost you half a million dollars or more. But just like reusable jetliner makes it possible for you to fly anywhere in the continental US for under a grand, Musk says his reusable system will make Mars cheaper than most mortgages.

Musk’s ultimate vision is a Martian city of millions. This will take thousands of ships, tens of thousands of trips. And, in his estimation, about 40 to 100 years. But all that starts small. Despite a recent pre-launch explosion, Musk still hopes to send a Dragon 2 capsule to Mars in 2018when Earth and Mars’ orbits bring the planets closest to one another. Then again, and again, every 27 months, when Earth and Mars again perigee, SpaceX will transport two to three tons of equipment to the Martian surface.

Pardon the mixed metaphor, but this whole thing redefines the word moonshot. Musk has always stated that his goal for SpaceX is to get to Mars. All these ISS resupply contracts and communications satellite launches are just ways to build capital and develop technology on the way to that goal. In response to an audience member asking whether Musk wanted to go to space, the SpaceX CEO replied: “Ive gotta make sure if something goes wrong on the flight and I die, theres a good succession plan and the mission of the company continues and doesnt get taken over by investors who just want to maximize profit and not go to Mars. Thats my biggest fear.” Real talk.

But SpaceX doesn’t have the money to do this on its own. As Elizabeth Lopatto from The Verge brilliantly pointed out this morning, the whole point of this today’s speech is to pique the interest of other monied space fanatics. Musk is rich, and SpaceX is doing pretty good business sending satellites into orbit (notwithstanding the odd explosion now and then), but the company is nowhere near making the billions necessary to jumpstart its Mars ambitions.

How far to go? Well, SpaceX just did a successful test-fire of the Raptor engine, which has three times the propulsive power as the Merlins it uses on the Falcon 9. Im amazed it didnt blow up on its first firing, Musk says. The company’s engineers have also made progress on the carbon fiber fuel tanks. As any distance bicyclist will tell you (ad naseum), carbon fiber has amazing strength to weight ratio (just dont put it in a clamp!). But making a mold big enough, without cracks, and having it cure at the right temperature is an enormously difficult challenge. Musk says he hopes to have the first developmental spaceship ready to operate in about three years. If things go super well, the one could be ready to depart in about 10 years.

But he’s hedgy: I dont want to say thats when this will occur.” And success is not a foregone conclusion. This is a huge amount of risk, will cost a lot, and theres a good chance we wont succeed,” he says. But were going to try and do our best. So, feeling inspired?

Read more: https://www.wired.com/2016/09/elon-musk-colonize-mars/