Although Mars is cited as the obvious choice to begin our multi-planetary future, the planet is far from being "habitable." Mars has an atmospheric pressure 100 times lower than Earth's, not only forcing us to live in pressurized habs (to breathe and protect us from radiation), it presents a huge challenge for landing large payloads onto the surface. A lower atmospheric pressure means less friction to slow landers down on reentry, creating a novel problem for getting boots and gear onto the surface.
Regardless, Musk's original MCT concept calls for an aggressive timeline, seeing the first landing of equipment on Mars in 2022 and the first crewed mission in 2024.
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But just because Mars is comparatively close, it's not the only game in town. Our moon remains a viable option, as does some of the outer solar system moons, like Saturn's hydrocarbon-rich Titan. Even some of the upper layers of Venus' atmosphere are surprisingly "Earth-like," though living in floating habitats creates its own challenges. If we can develop the life-support systems, Mars isn't the only place we can colonize (though who wouldn't want to see the sun set over Valles Marineris?) We could even plonk some kind of habitat on Mars moon Phobos and create a ready-made orbital Martian outpost.
And it seems Musk is keen to think about other options for his Interplanetary Transport System, rather than just pigeonholing it for sole Mars use. It will certainly be interesting to see what he discusses at the IAC this month.
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These future concepts are all well and good (and, indeed, necessary), but SpaceX has been dealt a tough 18 months that saw the loss of a Falcon 9 rocket minutes after lift-off on June 28, 2015 and then a launch pad fire and explosion earlier this month. Fortunately neither accident resulted in loss of life, but they certainly knocked the company's reputation for safely delivering customers' payloads to orbit, potentially impacting the company's bottom line and thus stymieing Musk's lofty goals of seeing massive rockets shuttling people around the solar system.
Although we tend to get excited for Musk's next big move in space -- as, let's face it, SpaceX has delivered an awful lot in the past 15 years -- other private companies like Jeff Besos' Blue Origins and aerospace giants like Boeing are also not wanting to be left behind and developing their own plans for how to make profit from this next exciting push into space.
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