Elon Musk has made a name for himself as a man who can get things done.
From the Tesla Roadster to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, his life has been a story of one man turning the improbable into the absolutely doable. That’s why when Elon Musk says he’s going to send a manned mission to Mars by 2024, more than a few people stand up and pay attention.
Enter the SpaceX Raptor Engine
Musk’s plan for Mars includes $10 billion in development seed money, plus 42 of SpaceX’s newly developed Raptor engines.
Although the Raptor isn’t the only rocket currently in development capable of theoretically reaching Mars with a human payload, it is the biggest rocket currently in private production. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin recently announced a new rocket called the New Glenn, also charged with the ultimate aim of taking people into space.
The SpaceX Race to Mars and Beyond
Unlike Blue Origin, SpaceX has limited funds to fall back on, which is why Musk is already hustling for partners to help fund his research.
The United States Air Force has committed $33.6 million for development of the Raptor engine, but much more will have to be raised in order to design and test the additional equipment needed to transport 100 passengers to Mars.
The every-26-months trips Musk envisions might run anywhere from $100k to $200k per ticket, requiring 10,000 flights just to send enough people to establish a self-sustaining civilization. Additional trips would be necessary to ferry equipment and supplies to the colonists. And although the idea of colonizing Mars is exciting, even Musk admits it could take up to a century to move as many people and resources as it would take with the technology he imagines.
Even so, someone has to go first, and as a man who has a history of being first wherever he goes, this is something to keep an eye on. Will Musk make his 2024 deadline? Maybe, if some interested parties chip in to help get his rockets off the ground. Otherwise, NASA believes it will have the budget to set a human on the face of Mars in the early 2040s, so there’s that to look forward to.