Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk says that while his plan to establish a self-sustaining Mars colony may have slipped behind schedule, he still hopes to see Starship’s first orbital flight test in 2021.
However, he warned those going there might not make it back.
He said: “I want to emphasise that this is a very hard and dangerous, difficult thing, not for the faint of heart,” he added. “Good chance you’ll die, it’s going to be tough going, but it will be pretty glorious if it works out.”
Work on Starship’s gigantic Super Heavy booster is continuing at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility.
The huge booster is a key part of Musk’s plan to establish a regular series of automated launches delivering infrastructure for his Mars colony.
“We’re making good progress,” Musk said during a “Humans to Mars” video conference on Monday.
“The thing that really impedes progress on Starship is the production system,” he said.
“A year ago,” Musk continued, “there was nothing there and now we’ve got quite a lot of production capability.
“So we’re rapidly making more and more ships.”
He stressed that SpaceX is working on completely unprecedented technology: “Nobody has ever made a fully reusable, orbital rocket,” he said.
He says that the journey is the easy part. The challenge will be to survive on the cold, virtually airless Red Planet.
“Getting to Mars, I think, is not the fundamental issue.
“The fundamental issue is building a base, building a city on Mars that is self-sustaining,” Musk said. “We’re going to build a propellant plant, an initial Mars base – Mars Base Alpha – and then get it to the point where it’s self-sustaining.”
The first step to Mars would be to get Starship into Earth orbit, and return it safely to Earth. After that the next phase in the project would be to establish a launch facility on the Moon.
But Musk says the ultimate goal is get establish a Mars colony. “Given enough time,” he says, it’s a near certainty that SpaceX will land on mars. “The question,” says Musk, “is how long it will it take us?”