Fearless Dream

reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

Category: Aviation and Space (page 2 of 13)

100 Humans on Mars, 8 Years From Now

Apropos our burning need for a way out to a new frontier: This is exactly the kind of thing we need to be working toward.

For the gist of why, the first “Interstellar” trailer articulated the answer in a beautifully profound two minutes:

For the logistical nuts and bolts of how, see Elon Musk’s milestone talk at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress last Tuesday:

According to the plan Musk outlined, SpaceX proposes to deliver an unmanned cargo shipment to Mars in 2018, more to follow in subsequent years, and a first wave of settlers — not a mere handful of astronauts, but a colonizing force of 100 — a mere eight years from now.

Tim Urban, whose detailed profile of Musk and SpaceX is a superbly great read, lays out the details of Musk’s Big F—-ing Rocket in his uniquely engaging, profoundly profane style at Wait But Why. (“G-rated” version now available.)

Some take-homes I jotted down from Musk’s talk:

  • Earth-Mars rendezvous is every ~26 months
  • With SpaceX’s transport, Musk estimates 3-5 months travel time
  • “Raptor” engine that will power the planned transport (to the tune of 42 of them):
    • scaled-up Falcon 9 booster, carbon fiber
    • 382 sec Isp in vacuum (361 @ sea level)
    • center cluster gimbals for steering capability; most on periphery will be fixed orientation
  • 7% of propellant needed for boostback & landing
  • up to 450T cargo to Mars
  • at least 100 passengers per ship, eventually up to 200 or 300

The key thing to emphasize is that this is not just some back-of-the-envelope daydreaming and a few artist sketches. Musk and SpaceX have concrete plans to build and do all of this, very soon now. Nothing in space endeavors is easy or guaranteed to stay on schedule, but with persistence it can be done, and thanks to Musk’s and SpaceX’s persistence and vision to date, we are now much closer than we have ever been to achieving the long dream of “humans as a multi-planetary species.”

We are still pioneers. We’ve barely begun.


Related content here:

“To the stars, through hard work”

Apropos The Way Out and The No Fear Pioneer Episode 3, “The Next Frontier”: Glenn Reynolds reports from a workshop on interstellar travel:

Just a couple of decades ago, one noted, the only people who firmly believed that there were planets circling other stars were science fiction fans. Now we’re discovering new planets all the time, and some estimates suggest that there may be billions of these exoplanets throughout our galaxy. So that’s one reason to be talking about interstellar travel: Now there’s somewhere to go.

Another reason is that while talk is no substitute for action, it can be a pretty important precursor. Much of our progress in space to date has been achieved because of people (usually science fiction fans) who wanted to explore places where no human had ever gone. As physicist and science fiction writer Greg Benford remarked, ultimately, we can do this, “but you can’t do it if you stop thinking about it.” Science fiction keeps people thinking about it, and that’s good.

As Glenn is fond of saying: “Faster, please!”

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