Elon Musk has clarified his fast Mars terraforming strategy. He wants to have a small repeatedly detonating fusion bomb at each pole. "Not really nuclear weapons," he says. "I think a lot of people don't realize that the sun is a giant fusion explosion. And we're only talking about duplicating that in small form on Mars, essentially having tiny pulsing suns. There would be no radiation or mushroom clouds or fallout.
Early plans for the MCT launch vehicle, made public in April 2014, consisted of one or three cores with a 10-meter (33 ft) diameter which is comparable to the Saturn V. At the time, the rocket was slated to use nine Raptor LOX/methane engines to power each core. The possibility of eliminating any tri-core version design, and modifying the MCT launch vehicle design to a single-core but larger-diameter vehicle—12.5 to 15 meters (41 to 49 ft) core diameter—was raised in late 2014 and further confirmed by Musk in early 2015.
All sources have indicated that the MCT launch vehicle is intended to be reusable—making use of the SpaceX reusable technology that is currently being developed for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.
Initial information indicated liftoff thrust would be approximately 62 or 190 MN (6,300 or 19,000 tonnes-force) (formerly roughly sized at greater than 40 or 120 meganewtons (9,000,000 or 27,000,000 lbf)) of thrust based on the assumption of 9 Raptor engines per rocket core). Later information has indicated that the total thrust of the MCT launch vehicle is not fully pinned down.
The Space Launch System has a first stage planned total thrust of 7,200,000 lbf (32,000 kN). The Saturn V had a 7.6 million pounds of thrust in its first stage. Second stages had about 1 million pounds of thrust. The Mars Colonization Transport would thus be about equal to a SLS or Saturn V or up to three time the thrust and size.
There may be more than one design in a family of SpaceX super-heavy lift launch vehicles.
A rough speculation system design from John Gardi is to estimate a Mars Colonization transport that is twice as tall as a Saturn V. So MCT would be 500 feet tall. It would have three decks for the 100 colonists.
Deep sleep might be used to reduce the amount of supplies that are needed for the colonists.
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. has performed an initial evaluation of an advanced habitat system designed to transport crews between the Earth and Mars. This new and innovative habitat design is capable of placing the crew in an inactive, torpor state for the duration of the in-space mission segments. This substantially reduces the mass and size of the habitat, which ultimately leads to significant reductions in the overall architecture size.
Their approach for achieving this is based on extending the current and evolving medical practice of Therapeutic Hypothermia (TH) – a proven and effective treatment for various traumatic injuries. TH is a medical treatment that lowers a patient's body temperature by just 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit causing their metabolism to reduce significantly and the body to enter an unconscious state. This method avoids the intractable challenges often associated with cell metabolic cessation through cryogenic freezing and other highly speculative approaches.
To summarize a few medical facts on what is currently known:
- Therapeutic Hypothermia (TH) is an emerging and rapidly evolving medical procedure that the medical community is still identifying the multiple benefits and uses to which it can be applied
- Human patients have been placed in a continuous torpor state using TH protocols for periods up to 14-days
- Humans have undergone multiple TH induction cycles with no negative or detrimental effects reported in either the near term recovery period or long term
- Testing in animals has shown that cancerous tumor growth and the effects of radiation are significantly reduced and slowed during the torpor-state (on par with metabolic rate reduction)
- While not currently recommended as a standard treatment for increased intracranial pressure (ICP) in any clinical setting, recent studies suggested that TH can lower ICP and may improve patient outcomes
- Human patients have regularly received sustenance for extended durations (over 1 year) from an all-liquid solution, called Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), which can meet all hydration and nutritional needs