from the to-infinity-and-beyond dept.
Stephen Hawking wants humanity to pursue a Mars mission in the mid-2020s rather than the mid-2030s:
Prof Stephen Hawking has called for leading nations to send astronauts to the Moon by 2020. They should also aim to build a lunar base in 30 years' time and send people to Mars by 2025. Prof Hawking said that the goal would re-ignite the space programme, forge new alliances and give humanity a sense of purpose.
He was speaking at the Starmus Festival celebrating science and the arts, which is being held in Trondheim, Norway. "Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity," he said. "I hope it would unite competitive nations in a single goal, to face the common challenge for us all. "A new and ambitious space programme would excite (young people), and stimulate interest in other areas, such as astrophysics and cosmology".
Prof. Hawking also talked about interstellar travel:
[We'll] never know how hospitable Proxima b is unless we can get there. At current speeds, using chemical propulsion, it would take 3 million years to reach the exoplanet, Hawking said. Thus, space colonization requires a radical departure in our travel technology. "To go faster would require a much higher exhaust speed than chemical rockets can provide — that of light itself," Hawking said. "A powerful beam of light from the rear could drive the spaceship forward. Nuclear fusion could provide 1 percent of the spaceship's mass energy, which would accelerate it to a tenth of the speed of light."
A Mars mission architecture SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk will unveil in September will call for a series of missions starting in 2018 leading up to the first crewed mission to the planet in 2024, Musk said June 1.
On Tuesday (Sept. 27), Musk unveiled SpaceX's planned Interplanetary Transport System (ITS), a rocket-spaceship combo that the billionaire entrepreneur hopes will allow humanity to establish a permanent, self-sustaining, million-person settlement on the Red Planet. Mars is the first planned stop for ITS, but it may not be the last. "This system really gives you freedom to go anywhere you want in the greater solar system," Musk said Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico. With the aid of strategically placed refueling depots, "you could actually travel out to the Kuiper Belt [and] the Oort Cloud," Musk added. The Kuiper Belt is Pluto's neck of the woods, while the Oort Cloud, the realm of comets, is even more distant; it begins about 2,000 astronomical units (AU) from the sun.
[...] The ITS booster will be the most powerful rocket ever built, capable of lofting 300 tons to low-Earth orbit (LEO) in its reusable version and 550 tons in its expendable variant, Musk said. This rocket will blast the spaceship, which will carry at least 100 people, to LEO, where further launches will fuel the smaller vehicle. When the time is right — Earth and Mars align favorably for interplanetary missions just once every 26 months — a fleet of these spaceships will depart from LEO, arriving at the Red Planet in as little as 80 days, Musk said. The ITS — both the rocket and spaceship — will be powered by SpaceX's Raptor engines, which run on a combination of methane and oxygen. Both of these ingredients can be manufactured on Mars and other places in the solar system, Musk said, meaning that the spaceship can and will be refueled far from Earth.
[...] The ITS spaceship could therefore go very far afield, provided it could access refueling stations along the way. "By establishing a propellant depot in the asteroid belt or one of the moons of Jupiter, you can make flights from Mars to Jupiter no problem," Musk said. "It'd be really great to do a mission to Europa, particularly," he added, referring to the ocean-harboring Jovian moon, which many astrobiologists regard as one of the solar system's best bets to host alien life. Building additional depots farther from the sun — perhaps on Saturn's moon Titan and Pluto, for example — could theoretically extend the ITS spaceship's reach all the way out to the Oort Cloud, Musk said. "This basic system, provided we have filling stations along the way, means full access to the entire greater solar system," he said.
Making Humans an Interplanetary Species - Video of Musk Presentation at IAC [1h4m46s]
Same, but with Q&A session [1h58m22s]
Making Humans an Interplanetary Species - Slides of Presentation at IAC (pdf)
SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System - Video mockup presented at IAC [4m21s]
SpaceX - Mars
Musk’s Mars moment: Audacity, madness, brilliance—or maybe all three story at Ars Technica
Elon Musk envisions 'fun' but dangerous trips to Mars (Update 4) at phys.org
Elon Musk has published a plan to colonize Mars using as many as 1,000 Interplanetary Transport System spaceships to transport a million settlers at a cost of $200,000 per person:
Elon Musk has put his Mars-colonization vision to paper, and you can read it for free.
SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO just published the plan, which he unveiled at a conference in Mexico in September 2016, in the journal New Space. Musk's commentary, titled "Making Humanity a Multi-Planetary Species," is available for free [DOI: 10.1089/space.2017.29009.emu] [DX] on New Space's website through July 5.
"In my view, publishing this paper provides not only an opportunity for the spacefaring community to read the SpaceX vision in print with all the charts in context, but also serves as a valuable archival reference for future studies and planning," New Space editor-in-chief (and former NASA "Mars czar") Scott Hubbard wrote in a statement.
[...] ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down for a pinpoint landing about 20 minutes later. And "pinpoint" is not hyperbole: "With the addition of maneuvering thrusters, we think we can actually put the booster right back on the launch stand," Musk wrote in his New Space paper, citing SpaceX's increasingly precise Falcon 9 first-stage landings.
Also at The Guardian.
In a move intended to align with the National Space Council's call for NASA to return to the Moon, the United Launch Alliance intends to launch a Bigelow Aerospace B330 inflatable module into low Earth orbit, and later boost it into lunar orbit using a rocket which can have propellant transferred to it from another rocket:
Bigelow Aerospace, a company devoted to manufacturing inflatable space habitats, says it's planning to put one of its modules into orbit around the Moon within the next five years. The module going to lunar space will be the B330, Bigelow's design concept for a standalone habitat that can function autonomously as a commercial space station. The plan is for the B330 to serve as something of a lunar depot, where private companies can test out new technologies, or where astronauts can stay to undergo training for deep space missions.
"Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars," Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, said in a statement. "It will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term."
To put the habitat in lunar orbit, Bigelow is looking to get a boost from the United Launch Alliance. The B330 is slated to launch on top of ULA's future rocket, the Vulcan, which is supposed to begin missions no earlier than 2019. The plan is for the Vulcan to loft the B330 into lower Earth orbit, where it will stay for one year to demonstrate that it works properly in space. During that time, Bigelow hopes to send supplies to the station and rotate crew members in and out every few months.
After that, it'll be time to send the module to the Moon. ULA will launch two more Vulcan rockets, leaving both of the vehicles' upper stages in orbit. Called ACES, for Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, these stages can remain in space, propelling other spacecraft to farther out destinations. ULA plans to transfer all of the propellant from one ACES to the other, using the fully fueled stage to propel the B330 the rest of the way to lunar orbit.
Previously: Moon Base Could Cost Just $10 Billion Due to New Technologies
Should We Skip Mars for Now and Go to the Moon Again?
How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years, Permanently
Buzz Aldrin: Retire the ISS to Reach Mars
China to Send Potato Farming Test Probe to the Moon
Stephen Hawking Urges Nations to Pursue Lunar Base and Mars Landing
Lockheed Martin Repurposing Shuttle Cargo Module to Use for Lunar Orbiting Base (could they be joined together?)
ESA Expert Envisions "Moon Village" by 2030-2050
NASA and Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on the Development of a Lunar Space Station
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station