SpaceX founder Elon Musk has revealed his ambitious plans to colonise Mars and bring the price of a trip to the planet down from an estimated $10bn (£7.7bn) to $200,000 (£143,000). Part of the billionaire's plans include using a revolutionary fully reusable transportation system.
Musk appeared at a special event at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Tuesday 27 September, where he outlined plans to build a self-sustaining city on the Red Planet.
He told the audience that mankind's only hope for long-term survival is to become a "multiplanetary species", or face extinction.
"One path is to stay on Earth forever and there will be some extinction event. The alternative is to become a multi-planetary species, which I hope you will agree is the right way to go," he declared.
The room included legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin as well as other experts, engineers and scientists keen to hear the latest plans from SpaceX, which was launched by Musk as Space Exploration Technologies Corp in 2002.
He declared that the ultimate aim of the private space company was to take humans to Mars, but added that once there the planet could be used as a springboard to visit other planets. But rather than set his sights on just getting there – he wants to set up cities which could, one day, save our species.
To achieve the colonisation of Mars, the South African-born entrepreneur said rocket reusability, refuelling the spacecraft in orbit and propellant production on the planet will be essential. The 45-year-old said: "Refuelling in orbit is one of the essential elements," Musk said in the presentation called "Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species."
Acknowledging that investment would be needed, he plans to bring the cost of travel to Mars to the average price of a house in the US. Musk said that producing propellant in space, possibly by harvesting methane fuel on Mars itself, was key to driving down the cost.
SpaceX produced a four-minute animated video before Musk's speech that revealing how the Interplanetary Transport System would work. The ambitious proposals sees a spacecraft parking in orbit while the booster returns to Earth to get a propellant tank.
The rocket refuels the spacecraft in orbit and blasts off toward Mars thanks using solar arrays, which sit on either side of the spacecraft. The spaceship is expected to travel at almost 62,634 mph towards Mars with initial trips lasting 80 days which could be brought down to a month, according to Musk.
One currently unsolved problem is that humans will suffer high radiation levels in deep space but despite this, Musk says, the first person could step onto the surface of the planet within the next decade.
Musk added that anyone, in theory, could go adding. "It'll be, like, really fun to go—you'll have a great time."
His company is already flying satellites into orbit whilst earmarking Red Dragon missions in order to explore the planet. Earlier in September, a launch pad explosion destroyed one of the company's Falcon 9 launchers and its payload - an Israeli-built communications satellite for Facebook.