Elon Musk outlines SpaceX’s 2018 “cargo route to Mars”

Back in April, Space X – Elon Musk’s private space company – announced that it was planning its first Mars mission for just two years time in 2018.

Elon Musk outlines SpaceX's 2018

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, the PayPal and Tesla entrepeneur has provided more details of what he had in mind. “Essentially what we’re saying is we’re establishing a cargo route to Mars,” Musk explained. “It’s a regular cargo route. You can count on it. It’s going to happen every 26 months. Like a train leaving the station. And if scientists around the world know that they can count on that, and it’s going to be inexpensive, relatively speaking compared to anything in the past, then they will plan accordingly and come up with a lot of great experiments.”

Musk didn’t provide too many specifics, restraining himself despite great temptation to do otherwise (“I’m so tempted to talk more about the details of it”), but he did reveal that if the company “get lucky and things go according to plan”, they’d be looking at their first manned flight in 2024, with the first humans on Mars by 2025. That’s a big claim, given an external panel reckons NASA’s own 2030s Mars landing plans are looking a touch unlikely. There are, after all, a huge number of challenges to be overcome.

READ NEXT: Watch the moment SpaceX employees celebrated the Falcon 9’s successful landing

Musk did talk a little about what this would mean, explaining exactly how dangerous the first manned mission would be. “The first mission wouldn’t have a huge number of people on it, because if something goes wrong, we want to risk the fewest number of lives as possible,” he said.

But I do want to emphasise this is not about sending a few people to Mars. It’s about having an architecture that would enable the creation of a self-sustaining city on Mars with the objective of being a multi-planet species and a true space-faring civilisation and one day being out there among the stars.”

It’s dangerous and probably people will die—and they’ll know that,” he continued. “And then they’ll pave the way, and ultimately it will be very safe to go to Mars, and it will very comfortable. But that will be many years in the future.”

Baby steps, first of course, but the words – if nothing else – are hugely exciting, and I think we can accept Musk is sincere in this. In his own words, he is quoted as saying: “I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”

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