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Mars Space

Elon Musk Scales Up His Ambitions, Considering Going 'Well Beyond' Mars (arstechnica.com) 289

An anonymous reader writes: For most of its 14-year existence, SpaceX has focused on designing and developing the hardware that will lead to its ultimate goal: colonizing Mars. These plans have remained largely secret from the general public, as company founder Elon Musk has dropped only the barest of hints. But that is expected to change on Sept. 27, during a session at the International Astronautical Congress, when Musk details some of these plans for the first time in a public forum. However, on the eve of the meeting, Musk dropped a surprise on Twitter. The workhorse spacecraft that will carry approximately 100 tons of cargo or 100 people to the surface of Mars, which until now has been popularly known as the Mars Colonial Transporter, can't be called that, Musk said. "Turns out MCT can go well beyond Mars, so will need a new name..." he tweeted on Friday evening. By Saturday evening he had a new name dubbing the spacecraft the "Interplanetary Transport System," or ITS. Mars, it turns out, isn't the solar system's only marginally habitable world for would-be new world colonists. The Moon, Venus, the asteroid Ceres, and outer Solar System moons Titan and Callisto all have some advantages that could allow for colonies to subsist. However, Mars has generally been the preferred destination -- due to its relative proximity to Earth, a thin atmosphere, and sources of water ice. Musk now seems to be suggesting that some of these more distant destinations, especially moons around Jupiter and Saturn, might be reachable with the Interplanetary Transport System.
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Elon Musk Scales Up His Ambitions, Considering Going 'Well Beyond' Mars

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  • New name... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ravrazor ( 69324 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @10:48AM (#52916639)
    The ELF = Explodes on Launchpad in Florida
  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @10:52AM (#52916663)

    And he delivers real stuff that (mostly) works.
    This is the kind of person we need as POTUS, not a choice between a couple of cynical, under-performing outrageous liars.

    • by Bob_Who ( 926234 )

      Enough vision not to get mired down in DC Wrestle-mania with ED (erectile dysfunction). .....blue pills, orange face.

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      Howard Hughes also had vision.

    • by quax ( 19371 )

      Wrong birth certificate.

    • A galaxy class starship? :D Well, somebody's working for the benefit of humanity. Just don't subcontract it out Mr. Musk!
    • I wouldn't want him for president. He is far more useful where he is. As president he will need to deal with Congress and the Supreme court. The role of the US government is to be cautious and slow, those mistakes he did that he uses as an opportunity to learn and try to advance knowledge, be become a fool hearty waste of Taxpayers money into a something that doesn't work and isn't expected to immediately fix any of our problems.

  • I'm a really big fan of SpaceX and a lot of the other things that Musk is doing. He's helping solve global warming with Tesla and SolarCity not just with his own companies but by pushing other companies to follow. The Falcon 9 is as of right now the cheapest rocket for medium sized payloads even without reuse (they aren't launching by themselves the very small payloads, and until the Falcon Heavy is setup they won't have the ability to launch the largest satellites). That number will go down even further if
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @11:23AM (#52916865) Homepage

      You act like this discussion comes out of the blue, like it's something Musk just came up with after AMOS-6. Discussion of MCT (now ITS) was something Musk was scheduled to unveil already, long in advance of the AMOS-6 accident.

      I agree that AMOS-6 has taken a lot of the focus away from such "lofty" goals, but let's not act like this wasn't something that was already planned.

      (I of course am a lot more interested in hearing the results of their AMOS-6 investigation right now than about their ITS plans... as are I think most people)

    • No he is not doing anything regarding global warming, too few of those expensive well-to-do people's cars exist to make a gnat's fart of difference in global co2 levels. Your religious awe of the man is laughable.

    • Yes, at first I was also worried. But then I RTFA and Musk does not say he is going anywhere else (than Mars). From what I gathered, he just wanted a new name for his Mars Colonial Transporter. Someone in Twitter suggested Millennium Falcon and Musk said that he loved the suggestions. The name Musk chose, Interplanetary Transport System, IMO is more formal something like NASA's SLS (Space Launch System). And notice that "Colonial" is missing in the new name. Maybe, just maybe, Musk is trying to scale down
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @11:00AM (#52916701)

    While I'm totally on board with trying to visit other parts of our solar system, here's the bit I don't quite get. Who exactly is going to pay for these trips to Mars or wherever else? Despite their general success I don't see SpaceX being able to fund it themselves any time soon and there is no obvious economic return from such a trip given that at this point it is purely exploratory in nature. The only institution with enough money and no need for a profit is the government so how does he propose to get the government to pay for it OR where is the ROI on the trip for any would be private investors?

    I don't ask this question to be snarky but it's a pretty important question and I think it's being glossed over at this point. I don't have any problem with tax dollars being used for this kind of exploration but some parts of our congress are pretty against raising the taxes that would be necessary to pay for a trip like this. NASA doesn't have the budget at this point nor do they have a congressional mandate to support what Mr. Musk is proposing. And I just don't see private sponsors with deep enough pockets to fund the trip stepping up to the plate.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @11:33AM (#52916957) Homepage

      Despite their general success I don't see SpaceX being able to fund it themselves any time soon

      Actually that is indeed the plan. As far as Red Dragon goes, it's not much harder to get to Mars than it is to GEO. And Dragon has been designed all along to do automated powered landings, which are necessary on Mars - even though the design purpose was for landings on Earth. The reentry heating is higher, but that's largely just a matter of a thicker ablative coating.

      Now, MCT/ITS is much further in the future, and much harder. But again, that is indeed Musk's goal, to self-fund it. It's actually caused some turf wars with some at NASA, who've argued that Mars is their turf and that SpaceX should stay focused on Earth while they go beyond. Rather silly, IMHO.

      Obviously, every time there's an incident with the Falcon 9, that sets SpaceX's plans back. Not just for the length of the downtime for the investigation repairs, but also for the time to cover the huge launch backlog that accumulates while they're down. A lot of the reason for Falcon Heavy's delay was the backlog after the CRS-7 accident. Now we've got this new one. Who knows at this point what the cause is and how long it will take to remedy.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, everyone has projects that fail; even more people have dreams that they never even start work on.

      But you can see here why Musk is a successful and important tech entrepreneur. He didn't set out to make an electric car because it made economic or technical sense; he set out to do that because he wanted one.

      Pure engineers and MBA types don't advance the state of technology. Most engineers by temperament are conservative; give them a choice of a clearly feasible and doubtful project and they'll go with

      • But you can see here why Musk is a successful and important tech entrepreneur. He didn't set out to make an electric car because it made economic or technical sense; he set out to do that because he wanted one.

        Which is to some degree a load of crap. Yes I know he has claimed that and for the most part I think that claim is largely nonsense. People set out to do all sorts of things but they don't actually happen unless there is an actual path to success. You'll notice that Elon Musk has yet to start a company that is truly clean sheet. People built financial software before he did. People built rockets before he did. People built electric cars before he did. He was in a position to improve on what had come

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          You're attacking a strawman; I never said Musk did it alone, mad scientist style.

          • You're attacking a strawman; I never said Musk did it alone, mad scientist style.

            People only start corporations because they think they can make them work. Most of the people in charge of very large amounts of money don't commit it without having some kind of knowledge that suggests they can do something with it. That doesn't mean they're right, but it does still mean they're standing on someone's shoulders.

            • by hey! ( 33014 )

              Again I never said entrepreneurs do it on their own. I don't know where you get that.

              Most startups fail. Most survivors are mediocre. Having some vision beyond beating normal profit is a powerful asset, although like anything else in excess it is a liability.

        • What he didn't know was whether he could build a viable electric car business. If all he wanted was an electric car he could have done that in his garage in his spare time.
          This is one of the biggest bollocks posts since decades.

          I'm sitting on my 13" Mac Book Air, 2 years old.

          Imagine it would not exist and I was asked to make a single one. Like your example of making your own electric car in the garage.

          Where would we start? The chassis is made from aluminium, perhaps an aluminium magnesium alloy, no idea. So

    • I don't know what his plans are. But here's what I'd do. I'd open it up to all the stable governments of the world. If there's going to be a human colony on mars, many countries are going to want one of their people to be in it. So several countries each pay to put a man on Mars. And as a bonus, they get a nice diverse DNA collection for the colony.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Generally speaking, the government should turn a (small) profit. The alternative is the mountain of debt the U.S. has built up over the years. A well-functioning government of a well-functioning society should be slightly in the black. However, the American people somehow think that someone else should pay and fail to pay their income taxes to the tune of about the yearly deficit. Added to legislators treating the government laws, rules, and regs like a candy story for companies and their own re-election, t

      • Money does not work that way.

        First of all most debts the government has, it has towards its own citizens. Debts towards foreign countries can always be nulled by manipulating the world market or the exchange value of the currency.

        Of course the latter influences the value of the rich citizens money hold in foreign banks ...

        If you are a government, simply imagine it like a computer game: you can set exchange rates arbitrarily (e.g. see China which has fixed its currency by law to the US dollar).

        The only probl

    • Who exactly is going to pay for these trips to Mars or wherever else?

      Private companies might pay for some space exploration, assuming it's cheap enough and there's enough of a financial reward to make it worthwhile. One of the possibilities people have put out there is that, if space travel were cheap/easy enough, we might be able to mine asteroids for various materials that are relatively rare here on earth's surface.

  • First, Mars, then Proxima Centauri (I heard the weather is nice there, at this time of year) ...or wherever.
    Somewhere in between, if time allows, I'm sure a lot of people are interested to see a working Hyperloop.

    By the way. How comes it's "March" for the month, but "Mars" for the planet and the god ?

  • by kimgkimg ( 957949 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @11:14AM (#52916779)
    How about we get to Mars and get the Model 3 out in 2018 and then we'll talk stretch goals?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The entire basis of this article is a few tweets, I wouldn't equate a few random comments, even from the head of a number of related companies as a full fledged ambition. Though even if the MCT/ITS is primarily intended for Mars transit (assuming its ever built) its nice to think that they're considering other destinations as well in the planning stages. One of the larger problems historically in the space industry is that too many craft/satellites/rockets are designed for a very narrow, often single use,

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @11:44AM (#52917031) Homepage

      Indeed. As a Venus fan, I would think it a travesty if one designed such a craft to only suit Mars, when delta-V for a Venus transfer orbit is almost identical to that of Mars, transit times are shorter, power more abundant, and aerocapture easier. By any standard any craft good for transport to Mars should also be good for transport to Venus. However, if not planned for that upfront (for example, taking into account thermal management due to the higher solar constant) it might inadvertently be rendered Mars-only.

      It's good that they're thinking beyond just Mars.

  • by NMBob ( 772954 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @11:16AM (#52916797) Homepage
    Radiation, anyone? Have wondered about it since the 60's. Continue to here very little (not nothing) about it in the teens.
    • by NMBob ( 772954 )
      Hear, not here. Well, OK, here too.
      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        In the teens?

        It's an active topic of research. Magnetic shielding and advanced shielding materials have both been research, but the results haven't turned out as good as was hoped. Right about now, it looks like there's just two main options:

        1) Go big (lots of water and other mass = lots of shielding)
        2) Go fast (shorter time in space = less radiation hazard)

        AFAIK MCT/ITS was always designed to be big, although just how big hasn't been disclosed yet. Who knows how fast it's supposed to reach Mars.

    • Radiation isn't a problem. You just fill the hull with asteroid dust that you mined off the surface of an asteroid. This is a solved problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If radiation isn't a problem for Mars it's not a problem for any of the other choices, surely?

      I also understand it's an "increased risk of cancer" thing, not a face-melting thing? Surviving long enough to die of cancer is going to be enough of a problem that the reduced lief expectancy is a side issue.

  • We've yet to even land a human being on Mars, and Musk is talking about how his spacecraft will take people well beyond Mars -- to where, one of Jupiter's moons? That's nearly a two-year journey, and we haven't even figured out how to return people to Earth from Mars... so basically it's a suicide mission.

    Let's take one step at a time, especially considering that one of Musk's rockets just reminded us that space travel is hard.

    • The method for reaching the surface of Mars wouldn't be the same as the one for getting on/off Jupiter's moons. Difference in gravity plus presence/absence of an atmosphere are two of the factors involved. The length of the journey presents one set of challenges. What they do when they get to their destination is an entirely different question.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Once you're in orbit, you're halfway to anywhere. The moon, Venus and asteroids are all easier targets than Mars. Some of the moons of Jupiter may well be easier targets too. Mars is hard because it's big, with a thin atmosphere, so you need heavy equipment to land and take off. For Venus you just stay in orbit. For smaller moons with no atmospheres you need a lot less mass in fuel and heat shielding to land and take off again. You can use that space for more life support and radiation shielding.

      • With a ll due respect.
        Look on a damn map.
        The asteroids are far behind Mars.
        The only thing that *might* make them an easier target is: landing. And then what? On an Asteroid you have nothing, on Mars you have half a world.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      We've yet to even return a human being on the Moon! What is with Mars? Yes it is interesting geological place but why live there? I don't see a huge land rush to settle the Gobi Desert even though it is a thousand times easier to settle there than Mars. Reason of no land rush is because it is a barren inhospitable place because it is obvious there is no good reason to live there. We only romanticize about Mars because it is so far away.

      And then there is the phrase, "once you're in orbit, you're halfway to

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @11:21AM (#52916849)

    I hope he's developing some parallel plans. First, how to head off the Belter/Earth war? The Belter fringe made a real mess dropping some rocks into Earth's gravity well.

    What's his plan for spin-stabilizing Ceres?

  • Ceres (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Monday September 19, 2016 @11:40AM (#52917007) Homepage Journal

    Ceres is large enough to have marginal gravity, but more importantly, it's a giant ball of ice. Since it only has marginal gravity, less than that of the Moon even, makes it very easy to get on and off of it with hardly any fuel. In fact, even though it's past the orbit of Mars, the fuel budget to do a manned trip (and safe return) is only 20% more than that of a moon mission. Mainly due to the tiny tiny gravity well.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      And the fact that it takes quite a bit longer to get there. People do not live on science alone, they require food, water, entertainment, exercise, and quite a bit of shielding from those nice, energetic cosmic rays. Sunglasses are optional.

      • by pz ( 113803 )

        People do not require entertainment. That is a modern myth based on the need to pacify the masses.

        Food, yes, a requirement. Water, shelter, yes. Entertainment? No. Not a requirement for life.

    • Not to mention a great places to build ships to send further into the solar system or out of the solar system, I would think.

  • People who never accomplish anything, but sit around throw insults at people trying to...

  • For Musk, this isn't just a *theory*: it's fairly obvious he's using the cheat system. ;)

  • I love the fact that he's at least thinking big, about using his $billions for big, long term stuff that sure, might make him piles of cash but would also seriously advance humanity.

    OTOH, I'm just sort of afraid he's either not totally serious or tons of people are going to die going along with his ideas....not because of THEM (if they volunteer, that's their choice) but because it would then set such projects back so far they'll never happen.

  • We will one day live on every large rocky surface in the solar system... ... just not in Elon Musk's lifetime.

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