Elon Musk-led SpaceX has revealed big plans for Mars including building cities on the red Planet and bases on the moon almost simultaneously.
Paul Wooster, the principal Mars development engineer of SpaceX explained this at the 22nd annual Mars Society Convention at the University of Southern California, on Saturday.
For the Mars and Lunar projects, Wooster says the SpaceX Starship vessel is versatile in terms of its design. One key aspect of Starship is the full reusability and Raptor engines powered by liquid oxygen and methane, per SpaceX news.
“The Starship system opens up capabilities, for example, to deliver very large payloads to the moon, set up and operate lunar bases,” Wooster explained.
Per previous pronouncements by SpaceX, it would launch a satellite in 2021. That will be followed by a trip around the moon, in 2023 with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and eight artists on board.
After the moon mission, SpaceX will send a series of manned and unmanned ships to Mars to set up early bases.
First Mars city by 2050
SpaceX targets to complete its first city on Mars by 2050. Wooster also shared the larger vision of SpaceX which wanted to establish propellant depots on Mars tapping local resources and forge a planet-hopping network with a focus on the exploration of the solar system.
Once the SpaceX launch of humans establishes a propellant depot and basic life support systems, work on building multiple cities can start. These cities would also support scientific research and support third-party projects.
Noting that Starship will be used for going to the moon and going to Mars, Wooster said there are exciting possibilities of flying both missions and building bases on the moon and building cities on Mars.
Wooster asserted these missions are within reach thanks to the robust development of the Starship. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, while unveiling the first Starship prototype in September had outlined a plan for a 20-kilometer test jump of Starship rockets in a few months and an orbital flight thereafter to fast track the Mars plan.
NASA to review planet protection policies
Meanwhile, the U.S. space agency NASA was urged to update its current planetary-protection policies, according to a new report.
NASA set up a Planetary Protection Independent Review Board in April to review the agency’s protection policies. The board submitted the report to NASA last week and the agency published the report on Oct. 18.
Planetary protection implies a series of steps to keep the solar system pristine by minimizing the odds from spacecraft and other tools on planets, per NASA news.
NASA’s planetary-protection guidelines are a legacy of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). But the space landscape has changed at multiple fronts.
The surge in explorations including NASA led sample-return missions including the upcoming Mars rover experiment that will collect samples and transport to Earth are the catalysts for the initiative.
Flight of tiny cube-sats for interplanetary missions as in Marco Mars probes of NASA in 2018 and expected launch probes to various cosmic destinations have also necessitated a relook.
As of now, NASA wants to land people on the moon by 2024 and on Mars in the 2030s. But SpaceX is trying to bring people to the Red Planet years before NASA mission arrives.