Musk’s new plan envisions sending a cargo mission to Mars without humans on board in 2022—the next window when it is easy to fly from earth to the red planet. Then, in 2024, he hopes to follow up with human colonization. The BFR is designed to carry about 100 passengers, with 40 cabins and several community spaces during a mooted three- to six-month voyage. Such a mission is far more ambitious than anything currently contemplated by space exploration agencies, and for that reason many are skeptical of the timeline described by Musk, who has been a serial over-promiser when it comes to delivery dates.
At the same time, few organizations have SpaceX’s engineering talent, finances, and recent experience in developing new space technology.
Pivoting its business plan to make best use of existing technology has allowed SpaceX to thrive where other rocket start-ups have failed. Musk’s remarks came on the ninth anniversary of the company’s first successful launch. But SpaceX abandoned that vehicle, the Falcon 1, because it could not make enough money from it. It adapted the design for a space capsule to win a series of contracts from NASA that became the foundation of its business.
Pretty easy to be skeptical of all of this – I mean, they’re talking about flying people to Mars in 7 years
– but it is impressive to watch the pivots in the plan to make this (or even just a fraction of this) a reality. Remember, SpaceX was going to be paying for all of this with global satellite internet infrastructure. But regulation seems to have killed that
Even on Earth, the rockets, traveling at up to 18,000 miles per hour, could make long-distance trips short — New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes, for example. Any two points on Earth would be less than an hour apart, Mr. Musk said.
After the presentation, Mr. Musk took to Instagram to elaborate on the price of those round-the-world rocket flights: “Cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft. Forgot to mention that.”
Again, very easy to be skeptical of this. But in an era where everyone is focusing on making faster planes
– the literal extrapolation of Ford’s “faster horse” – why not focus on thinking differently? Sometimes, the shortest path between two points is not a straight line, but a trajectory up and down (using the curvature and movement of the Earth).