SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is rolling back his estimation of a company mission to Mars, which initially aimed for the next launch window opportunity in 2022 — saying he "guesses" the next-gen Starship spacecraft might be ready for the next launch window in 2024, according to an interview carried out during the Mars Society virtual convention held on Friday.
Elon Musk pushes SpaceX Mars mission back to 2024
As the world's most successful fan of leaving Earth behind, Elon Musk aimed to send a robotic mission to Mars during 2022 — with a crewed trip slated for 2024. But during a Friday interview amid the Mars Society virtual convention, Musk rolled-back his company's schedule when he said he thinks SpaceX's next-gen Starship spacecraft could be capable of launch in 2023 — making an initial launch window during 2024, reports CNET.
The solar orbits of Mars and Earth bring the two planets to their closest pass roughly once every two years. This is why three robotic missions were launched to the Red Planet — including NASA's Perseverance rover — within weeks of one another, this July.
"I think we've got a fighting chance," said Musk about launching during the 2024 Mars window. But to do it, his team at SpaceX needs to move faster — and Musk isn't afraid of breaking a few proverbial eggs to get there.
"We'll probably lose a few ships," he said when speaking about the Starship spacecraft's development — which is slated to take dozens of people to Mars in one trip.
The first Martians will likely be rich Earthlings
As of writing, initial Starship prototypes have carried out short, low-altitude "hops" from the Texas-based SpaceX test facility. Musk wants early models to make orbit for the first time in 2021. He also thinks the company should perform a refueling demo in orbit during 2022, and then make the days-long journey to the moon.
However, the founder and chief engineer has no secret milestones carved in stone. "These are just guesses," said Musk to the Mars Society President Robert Zubrin, during the Zoom call.
On the subject of who gets to go to Mars, Musk said a city on Mars will be sustainable once one million people both want and can afford to go to the Red Planet. In other words, the first Martians will probably be among the richest Earthlings.
Possible SpaceX trips to Venus, asteroids, Jupiter moons
Once they're there, the first task will be to set up a propellant plant. Musk also spoke about sending robotic droids to the surface of Mars — so people who don't get to go can still remotely interact with the fourth planet from the sun.
Musk also spoke about possibly sending other spacecraft to the second planet from the sun: Venus — whose atmosphere recently caused quite a stir. There's also the potential to visit large asteroids, the moons of Jupiter, and perhaps even the Kuiper Belt, and farther beyond the solar system.