In a recent update to the SpaceX web site, Elon Musk and crew added some detail and updates to the plans for passenger and satellite cargo travel using its developing rocket tech. Naturally both SpaceX Starlink Satellite Launches and work for hire missions for NASA and others have been happening on a regular basis.
All of these and other projects also all serve to push the development of the systems for longer term projects, goals and plans.
One that has a specific stated timeline is the Private Lunar Mission. First announced in the fall of 2018, Japanese fashion billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa has purchased the fist ticket to orbit the moon on a SpaceX flight. The undisclosed price of the ticket will help fund the ongoing project to perfect the Starship and it’s rocket booster side-kick Super Heavy (formerly known as BFR) which, together, represent a reusable transportation system that SpaceX hopes will, one day soon, take passengers into orbit and on interplanetary missions.
Those missions, starting with the week-long moon mission for Maezawa, will eventually include the first manned mission to Mars, with an inaugural flight currently projected to happen by 2024. An initial cargo only flight is penciled in for 2022.
Challenges A-plenty for Decades
Elon and SpaceX are certainly aware of the challenges of these incredibly ambitious plans and accelerated timelines.
The website details the plan for the potentially treacherous landing sequence once the Starship actually reaches Mars. This includes an entry into the Mars atmosphere, never before breached by a human, at 7.5 kilometers per second. These video simulations show the ideal plan for the Starship to conquer this task.
Earth to Earth Transportation System
The team of Starship and Super Heavy are also part of a planned Earth to Earth transportation system for long distance travel around the globe. With the advantages of leaving the earth’s atmosphere (for a short time based on the incredible speed of the system) where there is little to no friction and no weather or turbulence.
As can be seen in the table below, the average intercontinental commercial jet flight, such as London to Hong Kong, that currently takes 12 in-flight hours, would be reduced to 35 minutes. Basically this would mean that any distance on earth could be reached in an hour or less.
|LOS ANGELES TO NEW YORK||3,983km||5 hours, 25 min||25 min|
|BANGKOK TO DUBAI||4,909km||6 hours, 25 min||27 min|
|TOKYO TO SINGAPORE||5,350km||7 hours, 10 min||28 min|
|LONDON TO NEW YORK||5,555km||7 hours, 55 min||29 min|
|NEW YORK TO PARIS||5,849km||7 hours, 20 min||30 min|
|SYDNEY TO SINGAPORE||6,288km||8 hours, 20 min||31 min|
|LOS ANGELES TO LONDON||8,781km||10 hours, 30 min||32 min|
|LONDON TO HONG KONG||9,648km||11 hours, 50 min||34 min|
“Rocket-lag” vs. Jet-lag, that’s a topic for a whole other article.
With all these plans, in addition to the missions to and from the space station and trips to host various payloads, it begs the question, what was NASA doing during the years from 1972, when the last moon mission was completed, until SpaceX was first contracted to assist.
And with all the private space exploration companies vying for position and invested in by both public and private funding, will this push be sustained throughout the 2020s?
With the Global Climate Crisis looming and various governments and private behemoths showing little regard for cooperation or or philanthropic behavior, the outcome and timeline of off-earth projects seem almost certain to be impacted by terrestrial obstacles, virtually every step of the way.
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