Speaking at the 33rd annual International Space Development Conference last Friday, SpaceX’s Elon Musk spoke about the company’s plan to make commercial exploration of space possible. He touched on Mars as well, saying the progress they’ve made at SpaceX is aimed at getting a colony of humans on Mars, and the company is “making some progress in that direction”, but noted “not as fast as I'd like”.
SpaceX’s recent launches have made important headway into rockets that are both reusable and well controlled. The F9R launched from its pad, landing just next to it in a soft landing exercise. The Falcon 9 made a similar soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean, breaking apart in the rough sea. One obstacle that remains for the reusable rocket idea is the first stage booster, but Musk is optimistic. “We're close to at least recovering and reusing the first stage. I think that if we can demonstrate recovery and reuse of the first stage, that will be really something.”
In that vein, Musk and SpaceX hope to make commercial travel to Mars via reusable rockets a possibility. A new rocket, the Falcom Heavy, will use methane to get a team of explorers to Mars, said Musk, noting that SpaceX was keen to explore the red planet.
How much will that cost, though? “I think that's the system that, at least according to my calculations, will enable someone to move to Mars for about half a million dollars” said Musk. “There will be those who can afford to go, and those who want to go. I think if we can achieve that intersection, then it will happen … and, hopefully, it will happen before I'm dead.”