Elon Musk’s Plan to Colonize Mars Is Underway

By Andrew Daniels

Elon Musk reminds me of a friend of mine who pivots career paths like it’s his actual job: For many years he toured the country in a successful pop-punk band, then up-and-quit his music dreams to be a coder for a while, then shifted gears to be a teacher, and then maybe a nurse, and now … well, I honestly don’t know what the hell he’s up to these days. But I admire him for his boundless ambition, even if half the grand projects he puts into motion may never materialize.

That’s Musk in a nutshell. The billionaire and endearing weirdo is actively working to bring electric cars to the masses, build a high-speed transit system that can send you from city to city in minutes, and allow humans to talk to computers and A.I.s via their thoughts, among other bold pursuits. Most importantly, Musk also has a private space company called SpaceX, which he’s using to eventually send the average (rich) person to outer friggin’ space.

Musk’s baby has experienced its fair share of fits and starts over the last few years, but SpaceX recently sent a spacecraft to the International Space Station and successfully returned a rocket back to Earth in a vertical landing on a platform in the ocean. So Musk’s lofty goal of building a ship to set up shop on the moon and colonize Mars within the next 10 years is very real, but also, sure, Jan.

Musk recently unveiled his plans at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia, where he talked about the “BFR”—“Big Fucking Rocket” in Musk-speak—that he and SpaceX will use to “support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars,” according to the company’s site.

If everything breaks right (and Musk figures out the small matter of actually paying for this thing), the BFR will be strong enough to lift a spaceship with 40 cabins and carry 100 people per flight, according to The New York Times. The BFR’s booster would then return to Earth while the spaceship orbits, “where it would refill its tanks of methane and oxygen propellant before embarking on the months-long journey to Mars,” per the Times.

Here’s a video of how the BFR—which can also be used to travel between any two points on Earth—in one hour, by the way—might work in action. (New York to Shanghai in 39 minutes!)

Musk told the crowd at the IAC that the BFR’s first cargo mission could happen in 2022, and actual passengers could enjoy a trip to Mars by 2024, which, I should remind you, is in seven years. The odds of that happening are about as good as my ex-rockstar friend going multiplatinum while developing the next Facebook, but hey, it never hurts to dream.