Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars Transportation

SpaceX Wants To Go To Mars — and Has a Plan To Get There 236

Posted by timothy
from the it's-not-earth-musk's-after dept.
mknewman writes with an article at NASA SpaceFlight which lays out the details of a plan from SpaceX to send a craft to Mars, using an in-development engine ("Raptor") along with the company's Super Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle. "Additionally, Mr. Musk also introduced the mysterious MCT project, which he later revealed to be an acronym for Mars Colonial Transport. This system would be capable of transporting 100 colonists at a time to Mars, and would be fully reusable. Article is technically dense but he does seem to follow through on his promises!" This is an endeavor that's been on Elon Musk's mind for a while.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

SpaceX Wants To Go To Mars — and Has a Plan To Get There

Comments Filter:
  • by ModernGeek (601932) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @10:14PM (#46437585) Homepage
    I'm wondering if the Mars One project hasn't had a more complex working relationship than previously thought. For all we know, Mars One could just be a separatist marketing arm of Elon Musk.
    • zero chance. Mars one is talking about putting individual dragons connecting together, on the surface. There is little chance of that really working for ppl and dealing with the constant radiation.
      In addition, Mars one talks about sending 6 ppl at a time. SpaceX is doing 100 at a time.
      What Mars one is, is a back-up plan IFF SpaceX fails. Otherwise, SpaceX will be on mars BEFORE Mars-one launches a mission with the robots (though they MIGHT be able to launch one or two exploratory missions.
      • by Teancum (67324)

        I think it is a stretch to even suggest that Mars One is a backup plan to SpaceX. At best I would put Inspiration Mars (Dennis Tito's project) in that realm, assuming Mr. Tito goes anywhere with his project as well.

        I saw a Reddit conversation with the guys of Mars One that showed they really knew almost nothing about the technical side of things, and sort of thought they could magically buy anything they needed to get the job done. That might work for something such as an Antarctic expedition where the to

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @10:21PM (#46437617)

    Elon Musk = D.D. Harriman, only with bigger dreams.

    And not a fictional character.

    • by westlake (615356)

      Elon Musk = D.D. Harriman, only with bigger dreams.

      and fewer resources.

    • "And not a fictional character."

      Wait - huh - WUT?! Are you implying that Robert wrote FICTION!?!?! I'm not believing it for one second!

  • Good (Score:3, Funny)

    by The Cat (19816) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @10:25PM (#46437631)

    It's about time America started acting like America again.

    • It's about time America started acting like America again.

      I dunno, making grand plans and all that is great, but after the *actual* work gets outsourced to China, how do we know they'll be *really* wearing USA T-shirts when they step on Mars on our behalf?

      • They will be wearing USA t-shirts. Made in China.

      • Yeah, since the neo-cons created tax benefits to send our manufacturing out of the nation, the MBA's have been doing that. Of course, those companies are being gutted by their host nations.
        And you will note that SpaceX, Tesla, And Solar city have less than 10 MBA amongst the 3 companies. Does that tell you something?

        IOW, these 3 companies will continue to exists for a LONG LONG time. Even now, Tesla is pulling battery manufacturing back to America and Solar City is getting ready to announce a NEW solar p
        • by Teancum (67324)

          Solar City has decided to get into the panel/cell manufacturing business? That is news to me, as it is a very rough and competitive market that until now they've deliberately stayed out of because of the cut-throat competition and even industrial espionage going on with that industry.

          What Solar City does perform is total system integration and installation.

          I'd love to put one of the Solar City systems on my house, but unfortunately they haven't been able or willing to deal with my state government yet, in

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357)

      I don't think that this is "America", per se. This is more like "A small group of Americans", that small group consisting of Musk, his partners in crime, and his employees, with a few fanbois (like myself) thrown in for good measure. "America" is more concerned with petty nonsense, like appeasing the Muslims, gay marriage, and so-called "reality shows". And, that little freak who escaped protective custody in Canada - what's his name? Beiber?

    • I thought he was South African?

  • Article is technically dense but

    But?? No but, that's actually what we want here on Slashdot!

    he does seem to follow through on his promises!

    I wouldn't go that far.

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday March 08, 2014 @10:46PM (#46437697)

    SpaceX, more than any other of the "private" space companies, has shown a compentencey for building rockets.

    My Ass Is Blue, or whatever the pipe dream that Jeff Bezos is dumping money into, is not a player, not just for Mars, but for any real space flight.

    Orbital Sciences and SpaceX are the real players.

    • OSC being a real player? Not even close. They own NO ip related to launching. And even in sats, they are only SO-SO.
      To even think that they are a real player is a total joke.
  • Groovy ... (Score:2, Informative)

    Groovy ... but before I care, SpaceX needs to first have humans in space.

    Then I'll give a quid about their plans for space travel.

    I mean, if they haven't done a manned space flight to outside the atmosphere, it is far-fetched to be running before you can walk or even stand.

    The end.
    • Re:Groovy ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 08, 2014 @11:29PM (#46437843)
      Why is putting humans into a forbidding, empty, hostile radiation-blasted hell so important?
      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @11:41PM (#46437877) Homepage

        Why is putting humans into a forbidding, empty, hostile radiation-blasted hell so important?

        Because it's there.

        • Because while this pretty blue marble we live on is mostly always habitable, there are points in its history when mass extinction events wipe out the majority of the occupants and cause everyone to start over. Sometimes inhabitants (like us) cause our own mass extinction events (interesting fact, we're killing off enough species and messing the planet up enough that we are in a period of mass extinction).

          So, for survivability of our species, we really should start expanding beyond our planet (and our solar

          • Re:Groovy ... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by KeensMustard (655606) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @01:43AM (#46438169)
            Err. No. If we are responsible for the extinction of other species, it's time for us to stop doing that. Escapism isn't the way to tackle life's problems, and we won't escape our propensity for stupidity by shifting locations.

            And if external events are of concern to you, note that even at the height of those events, the Earth was more habitable than anywhere else. Even as the asteroids rained down, even as dust plumed into the stratosphere and temperatures first rose, then plunged, the earth remain more habitable than any place that is "not-earth". If you are concerned for the survival of the species, you should be urging us to stay.

            • Re:Groovy ... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:20AM (#46438677)

              Settling space doesn't imply abandoning Earth. It just increases the chance that at least some humans will survive in case something takes out Earth.

              • It also implies expanding the box of our thinking about survivability.

                You don't just take humans to other worlds - you take fauna and flora of all shapes and sizes as well.

                It also implies a lot of other very useful advancements in our industrial base - for one thing, anything which encourages a stable off-world resource and industrial operation is a huge advancement for the biosphere here on Earth, since it means we can think about permanently moving polluting or risky processes off the planet entirely (not

              • Settling space doesn't imply abandoning Earth.

                Using somewhere 'off earth' as a life boat implies you have lift capacity and enduring off earth capacity to handle the whole population of earth - otherwise, to be brutally honest, you are planning for a scenario in which lots of people die, and promoting this plan above plans in which lots of people don't. Which leads to a few questions:

                1. Where is this 'off earth' place that will support the earths population indefinitely whilst the earth recovers from this catastrophe?

                2. In the absence of such a place

            • If I were to put my money on something, it wouldn't be a non-redundant system with more single points of failure than your average unpatched Windows XP desktop.

              The Earth has a vast history of extinction events, conservation or not. Humans have quite successfully endured by 'shifting locations'.
        • by sconeu (64226)

          Mod parent up.

          George Mallory knew it. Hell, Robert Burns knew it back in the 1700s. "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

        • The same argument can be used for sending cows into space, or muffins, or lighthouses. Why would you send a lighthouse into space? Because it's there.
        • Because we've done it before. We even built a city there, which we called Las Vegas.

    • Re:Groovy ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blueturffan (867705) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @12:16AM (#46437971)

      Groovy ... but before I care, SpaceX needs to first have humans in space.

      Then I'll give a quid about their plans for space travel.

      I mean, if they haven't done a manned space flight to outside the atmosphere, it is far-fetched to be running before you can walk or even stand.

      The end.

      When Kennedy made his famous "We choose to go to the moon" speech, the USA had exactly 1 successful manned spaceflight - that being Alan Shepard's 15-minute suborbital hop. SpaceX has multiple successful launches, and are working on a manned version of their Dragon spacecraft.

      What Musk is doing is pointing to a finish line that will take many years to accomplish. There will likely be setbacks along the way, but like Kennedy he's setting a grand vision -- hopefully I'll see that vision realized in my lifetime.

      • Re:Groovy ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by taiwanjohn (103839) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @04:12AM (#46438509)

        working on a manned version of their Dragon spacecraft.

        As you probably know, the current Dragon is already capable of carrying humans, it's just not "man-rated" yet because it lacks a launch-abort escape system. They will probably begin manned test flights by the end of 2015.

        In the meantime, SpaceX continues to push the envelope on other fronts. Next weekend's CRS-3 launch will have landing legs, and attempt a "soft splashdown" in the ocean. By next year they could be regularly recovering and reusing the F9 first stage, which would dramatically reduce the cost of spaceflight. That alone would be a game changer, but that's just one of many innovations they're working on.

        I'm just old enough to remember the Apollo program, and to me, the last couple of years have been the most exciting period of space exploration since the early 80s. The Shuttle was supposed to usher in the era of reusable spacecraft, but it turned out to be far more difficult than expected. Instead of 50 flights per year, we were lucky to get even a 10th of that volume. We've been stuck in LEO ever since. Right now, SpaceX is well positioned to be the first to give us the ability to get beyond that again.

        I can hardly wait!

        • As you probably know, the current Dragon is already capable of carrying humans, it's just not "man-rated" yet because it lacks a launch-abort escape system. They will probably begin manned test flights by the end of 2015.

          The first two tests required for man-rating Dragon are scheduled for this year.

          Note that the are unmanned missions, testing the launch-escape system.

          I'm just old enough to remember the Apollo program, and to me, the last couple of years have been the most exciting period of space explorat

  • I wrote the article! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by baldusi (139651) on Saturday March 08, 2014 @11:47PM (#46437891)

    Glad that yoy liked it. That engine is an enabler. Methane/oxygen works incredibly well in gas-gas cycle. It's unbeatable for that.
    What I can tell is that Elon is serious in his desires. But you have to understand that the reason for that is that he has the vision and he's actually doing an ambitious but realistic plan. Next week flight will have legs on the first stage. And they'll try to pin point land it on the sea. If they do, the guys at the Cape with the big red button might let them try to land it in US soild next. But if not, that's still the cheapest rocket in its category in the world. Their modus operandi is realistic and bold. We'd better follow him because we might be watching history in the making.

    • Good job writing the article, nice and detailed.

      That engine is an enabler. Methane/oxygen works incredibly well in gas-gas cycle. It's unbeatable for that.

      One thing I didn't understand from the article, and maybe I just missed it; why haven't other people tried the methane/oxygen yet, if it's so good?

      • by tragedy (27079)

        The advantages for methane that are mentioned in the article are that it's cleaner burning than kerosene, which means more re-usability for engines. Also for Mars missions it can be made in situ using electrolysis and the sabatier process.

      • Good job writing the article, nice and detailed.

        That engine is an enabler. Methane/oxygen works incredibly well in gas-gas cycle. It's unbeatable for that.

        One thing I didn't understand from the article, and maybe I just missed it; why haven't other people tried the methane/oxygen yet, if it's so good?

        Possibly cost? Kerosene is mostly longer chain elements which are the major component of what you get out of an oil refinery. Methane is much more special order, and harder to transport since you have to keep it liquid (so you're back to needing dual cryostat tanks).

        Of course all this changes if you're going somewhere where a planet spanning oil infrastructure is not, but lightweight hydrocarbons are easy to get.

      • by baldusi (139651) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @10:58AM (#46439931)

        Sorry for the dupe, I forgot to login.
        Oh, the reason is very technical. The short story is that CH4/LOX is the best on full flow staged combustion. Exactly the most difficult and expensive cycle that nobody wanted to do. And if they do, since handling a new propellent is a new development in itself, they rather do with the propellents that they know.
        In the staged combustion level, CH4 is slightly better than RP-1/LOX, if you have Russian efficiency, else RP-1 is better. But if you have an hydrogen/LOX upper stage is inferior. And since it need 27% more volume than RP-1/LOX, if you are volume limited (like everybody usually is, due to road or train transport limitations), RP-1/LOX is better. And for reusability, it depends on the parameters. Hydrogen can work, and NASA, Rocketdyne, P&W and Aerojet (now, all the same company), had a lot more experience in H2 and might be a better choice for Shuttle like applications. And if you compare to hypergolics (think Proton, Long March, etc.), hydrogen or kerosene, it is more difficult to start.
        And again, all this for a first stage, space applications might have different requirements.
        So, methane is king for a first full flow reusable engine. Which should be the pinnacle of performance, but nobody had boldly gone there.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @12:07AM (#46437953) Journal

    A new plane doesn't make a new engine possible. A new engine makes a new plane possible.

    It's great that there Elon Musk is pushing out gains in performance, reusability and most importantly cost in chemical engine design! Kudos to him (and his company).

    Of course for the real exploration of the solar system to begin, we'll need nuclear (fusion!) or other such unrealized technologies. Still it's a good start!

    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      A new plane doesn't make a new engine possible. A new engine makes a new plane possible.

      It's great that there Elon Musk is pushing out gains in performance, reusability and most importantly cost in chemical engine design! Kudos to him (and his company).

      Of course for the real exploration of the solar system to begin, we'll need nuclear (fusion!) or other such unrealized technologies. Still it's a good start!

      It's an excellent start for high lift capacity. You really really REALLY don't want to use nuclear engines in a biosphere, you want to use them in space.

    • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @03:41AM (#46438417) Journal

      Of course for the real exploration of the solar system to begin, we'll need nuclear (fusion!) or other such unrealized technologies.

      I'm not sure I'd call nuclear "unrealized." [wikipedia.org] From the sounds of it, they had something ready to be assembled.

  • Terrible writing. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by labradore (26729) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @12:08AM (#46437955)

    Is anyone making sense of this? I know what all the terms are but the facts are more or less jumbled up together in ways that don't lend themselves to meaningful comparison.

  • Light match. Its the same plan we all have.
  • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:56AM (#46438767)

    This system would be capable of transporting 100 colonists at a time to Mars, and would be fully reusable.

    I initially misread that as saying that the 100 colonists would be reusable.

    Well, they need something to eat!

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @02:52PM (#46440993)

    Here's a visualization [dropbox.com] of the MCT Heavy Lift Vehicles, to scale with the existing Falcon 9 and the under-construction Falcon 9 Heavy. (Rocket designation is fictional, of course.) The visualization includes possible cargo shrouds.

    Yes, this monster will have a larger lift capacity than the Saturn V. Each individual Raptor is less capable than an F-1 engine, but there will be nine of them, rather than five.

Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau

Working...