"We're actually going to do this."

Spreader of Life

Elon Musk has long made plenty of highfalutin claims about colonizing Mars. Now, he's delivered another speech about this off world fantasy of his, providing a roadmap to settling the Red Planet that at least seems "tangible," in Ars Technica's assessment.

In a presentation to SpaceX employees at the company's Starbase facility in Texas, Musk outlined the "overall path to making life multiplanetary."

He said that Falcon 9 is the primary launch vehicle for Earth's orbit, but that Starship — SpaceX's largest and most powerful rocket, though it hasn't yet managed to launch to orbit and then land without destructing — is the vehicle that will ultimately bring life to other worlds.

As the most powerful rocket in the world, Starship will be capable of ferrying the massive payloads to orbit necessary to carry out large scale Mars missions, Musk said. All this — bear with us as we elucidate some Musk philosophy here — so that we can preserve the "light of consciousness" in the cosmos.

"We need enough people and enough tonnage on Mars such that Mars can survive and continue consciousness even if something were to happen to Earth," Musk said.

Towering Achievements

But before any of that can happen, there's more rocket science to be done. Starship in particular has suffered major setbacks, like exploding during several of its test flights. Its third and most recent launch last month saw it reach space for the second time — its most successful run yet — but the rocket still didn't survive reentry and crashed into the ocean.

The next test, Musk told the audience, will involve landing the Starship booster on a "virtual tower" in the ocean. Then, in the fifth test, SpaceX will attempt to catch the booster with an actual launch tower in Starbase, cementing its capabilities.

"My guess is probably next year is when we will be able to reuse Starship," Musk said.

Overwhelming Output

Reusability is key. One-and-done rockets wouldn't be able to carry out the high volume of rocket launches — Musk estimates as high as thousands of ships every 26 months — to orbit, and then to Mars. So far, SpaceX has successfully conducted 327 Falcon launches, Ars notes.

It also drives down costs. In addition to making the massive rocket reusable, Musk wants to make it even bigger. A reusable "Starship 2" will supposedly carry 100 tons of cargo to orbit, he said, and "Starship 3" will carry upwards of 200 tons. With such astonishing output, "Starship 3 will cost less per flight than Falcon 1," Musk claimed, as low as $2 to $3 million.

In total, SpaceX estimates that it will need to build several thousand vehicles per year and carry out 10 launches per day to send millions of tons of cargo to Mars.

"I think this is pretty doable," Musk said. "We're actually going to do this."

Of course, more than a few experts have cast doubt on Musk's Martian ambitions. As for Starship, it'll still have to prove itself capable of carrying out its role in NASA's mission, Artemis 3, to land on the Moon.

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