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Mars Space Science

SpaceX Aims To Put Man On Mars In 10-20 Years 271

An anonymous reader writes "SpaceX hopes to put an astronaut on Mars within 10 to 20 years. From the article: '"We'll probably put a first man in space in about three years," Elon Musk told the Wall Street Journal Saturday. "We're going all the way to Mars, I think... best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years."'"
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SpaceX Aims To Put Man On Mars In 10-20 Years

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  • So was Obama right? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @08:11AM (#35928038) Journal

    To put the emphasis on improving LEO access first (through better lower cost commercialized technologies) than trying to push the shuttle derived Ares program (that republicans have been trying to resurrect.)?

    If Space-X can meet its goal of $1,000/lb. to LEO (one TENTH) the cost of the space shuttle, I would think so!

  • I'm so sick of all these various companies, and government space programmes telling us what they can do in 10 or 20 years. Apparently everyone and his dog will be on Mars by then, meanwhile nobody has actually walked even on the Moon in nearly 40 years. Don't get me wrong, I'd like very much for someone to do all these things they predict, but I wish they'd just shut up and do them instead of talking about all the great things they're going to do.

  • by Arlet ( 29997 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @09:18AM (#35928504)

    There's a low-gravity, no-atmosphere location from where it's possible to launch missions to anywhere in the solar system much cheaper than from the earth.

    How many launches does it take to amortize the cost of building a rocket factory on the moon ?

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @10:54AM (#35929284)

    Depends on where you want to go. If you're trying to send a probe to Jupiter, you'll need a very big railgun to get the necessary speed.

    Build a railgun that can push 20 tons to lunar escape speed (~2373 m/s).

    Then use it to launch a rocket with 4km/s deltaV in an orbit that'll pass just above the atmosphere. Burn ~3.6km/s of your deltaV as you pass Earth close.

    At that point, assuming you launched at the right time, you're outward bound for Jupiter and can expect to arrive there in about 33 months.

    There are a lot of interesting things you can do with the Earth's gravity well if you start from the moon.

  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @10:59AM (#35929320)

    SpaceX isn't doing just the rocketry. With the Dragon capsule, they'll be able to mount manned launches entirely by themselves. It's not all that big a leap between putting a man into orbit for a few days, versus sending a man around the moon on a free-return trajectory, my understanding is that all you really need is to get a decent-sized rocket into orbit for a TLI burn, and with Falcon Heavy, they'll be able to do that. So clearly they're capable of going a bit beyond the basic rocketry themselves.

    Of course, Mars is a completely different ballgame, and I don't see SpaceX doing that by themselves. Not, at least, without massive funding from whoever wants to go there. They could probably do all the R&D in-house, but somebody else would have to pay for it.

  • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Monday April 25, 2011 @02:19PM (#35932318)

    Elon is cutting the fat out of conventional rocket costs, and I applaud him for that, but that only takes the cost per kg down from it's weight in gold (for the Space Shuttle), to three times its weight in silver (for the Falcon 9). The actual energy cost of getting to orbit (8.7 kWh/kg) runs about $1/kg at typical retail electric rates. An efficient transportation system would run something like 4 times the bare energy cost, which works out to about the cost of UPS shipping or ground beef. So long as launch costs are measured in their weight in precious metals, rather than ordinary day to day items, space will be stupidly expensive and limited to a very few people. It should also be a hint you are doing it wrong if you are so far above what physics says the cost could be.

    I used to work for Boeing on launch vehicles, advanced propulsion, and the Space Station. Now that I'm retired I am writing up my ideas on a better way:
    http://lunar.tiriondesigns.co.cc/ [tiriondesigns.co.cc] It is a work in progress, but the key idea is that there is no magic bullet (or magic rocket) that can solve the cost problem by itself. You need to:

    * Leverage multiple good ideas to get cost savings that multiply together. Apply these ideas in several projects and systems that build on each other
    * Use less of or eliminate conventional rockets, because they are inefficient and expensive
    * Design for re-use and recycling in orbit to lower hardware and supply cost
    * Use materials and energy in space to cut down how much you need to bring from earth
    * Build infrastructure to make things cheaper over time instead of exactly as hard and expensive as the last time.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein