We’re finally going to hear Elon Musk’s plans for a mission to Mars. You can watch along at 19:30pm UK. In the meantime, here’s some of what we expect to hear, and what it means to the plan to finally put a person on Mars.
Musk will deliver an address this evening explaining the plan his plant to the International Astronautical Congress titled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species”. SpaceX describes the speech as a “technical presentation [which] will focus on potential architectures for sustaining humans on the Red Planet”. Beyond that, details are sketchy, although there are some things we expect to hear today.
Yesterday, Musk finally revealed the Raptor engine that will power his Martian flights in action. He also revealed some specs for the engine. Today, we’ll almost definitely hear follow-up details and specs for the spaceship and rocket Musk intends to ferry people to the Red Planet. When we can expect to see them in the skies is also likely to be revealed.
Musk had previously sketched out a loose timeline for SpaceX’s trip to Mars. The private space company has said it wants to send a Red Dragon space capsule to Mars in 2018 aboard one of its Falcon Heavy rockets, which hasn’t actually yet had a test flight yet. That’s all a prelude, though, to Musk’s stated plan to send a person (or people?) there in 2025 — at least five years sooner than NASA plans to even reach Mars in the 2030s.
Red Dragon capsule (Image: SpaceX)
After SpaceX’s big rocket explosion (complete with its satellite payload) just this month, however, the company is currently grounded, pending the full investigation of what caused the catastrophe. SpaceX intends to be back in the air by this November, but the delay is going to push back some of the milestones, particularly the debut of its Falcon Heavy rocket, which was planned to make its first test flight this year. That flight will be pushed back until next year.
Besides the hardware of how to get there, we can also expect Musk to tell us his plans for how SpaceX intends to keep a Martian crew alive once they hit the surface of the planet. Right now, that’s the part of the plan we now the least about. What kind of structure will the colonists live in? How will they be protected from the Martian elements? What will they eat up there? Before anyone steps foot into a capsule, we need answer to all these questions — and more.
Much of what we’ll see and hear today remains a mystery. Will Musk rip through his skin suit to reveal the alien lizard-person inside? (No.) Will he show off the scale model he’s been building in his basement of Martian city, New Elonsberg? (Perhaps.) Will he finally reveal SpaceX’s plan to colonise Mars — and, maybe, even beyond? (Probably!)
But, we’ll have to wait till 19:30pm UK time to see for sure. You can watch along with us right here.