Entrepreneur Elon Musk has been around the block a few times. He helped start PayPal, the popular online payment system, and is even a founder of Tesla Motors. Musk’s most recent endeavor, however, is his space travel project, SpaceX, which recently completed its first successful supply mission to the International Space Station. Wired Magazine sat down with Musk and discussed original plans for SpaceX, the process of building and launching the rockets, and the possibility of a truly reusable spacecraft.
Musk mentioned that he thought about a manned mission to Mars in the early 2000s, and imagined building a small greenhouse on the surface of Mars, which would be packed with dehydrated nutrient gel that could be hydrated on landing. Musk said the rockets to get there would’ve cost $130 million alone, and he says the reason why there hasn’t been a manned mission to mars is because there isn’t cheap enough rocket technology.
However, Musk mentions that SpaceX is getting better at bringing the cost of rockets down significantly, almost by a factor of 10. Specifically, the company’s Dragon spacecraft, which was recently sent to the ISS, is actually an early prototype of the spacecraft that may one day head to Mars. Musk says that the current Dragon spacecraft wouldn’t have been able to land on Mars, but he says that the 2nd-generation capsule, which is expected to be completed in three years or so, is aiming to have that capability.
Musk also discusses reusable spacecrafts. He says “it’s the fundamental thing that’s necessary for humanity to become a space-faring civilization. America would never have been colonized if ships weren’t reusable.” He mentions that the Space Shuttle wasn’t actually truly reusable, since the main fuel tank was always thrown away and a new one was used for every launch. Musk is dedicated to building and improving on a truly reusable spacecraft, where every part of the ship can be reused, which Musk says will significantly reduce cost-per-launch factors.
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