Elon Musk reveals giant reusable spaceship and Mars exploration and colonization plans

The Spacex interplanetary spaceship — aka the BFS (Big Fucking Spaceship) — will have a diameter of 17 meters. The plan is to send about 100 people per trip, though he hopes to ultimately take 200 or more per flight to make the cost cheaper per person. The time can take as little as 80 days or as much as 150 days depending on the time of year (Mars and Earth orbits around the Sun). The hope is that the transport time will be as short as 30 days “in the more distant future.”

The rocket booster will have a diameter of 12 meters and the stack height will be 122 meters. The spaceship should hold a cargo of up to 450 tons depending on how many refills can be done with the tanker.

The carbon fiber BFS and booster would have thrust power of 13,000 tonnes.
It would have 42 engines using methane as rocket fuel.

The rocket will be about the height of the 32 story Keystone building in Boston.

Elon is estimating about $140,000 per ton for a trip to Mars

Musk’s plan relies on
1. re-usability
2. refilling in orbit
3. propellant production on Mars
4. finding the right propellant

After launching a spacecraft into orbit, it would stay there as its booster returned to Earth and launched with more propellant. This cycle could be repeated a few times before the spacecraft begins the journey to Mars.

Ideally a fleet of spacecrafts would then depart for Mars — sort of like Battlestar Gallactica.
Eventually 1000 ships would travel at a time.
He expects the ships to have a lifespan of 30 years and each would make 15 flights.

Once on Mars, a propellant production plant would be built.

The fuel would be used to return the spacecraft to Earth, where they could again be reused to bring back visitors.

A fully sustainable civilization could be built on Mars in 40 to 100 years.

The first human mission could launch as early as 2024.

The first stage will be reusable

Elon also talked about going to Europa and Enceladus

The locations of interest beyond Mars are the moons and asteroids with ocean. In the solar system most oceans trapped under ice. Scientists reported evidence for hydrothermal vents on the Saturnian moon Enceladus, with temperatures of its rocky core surpassing 194 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees Celsius) in spots. The discovery, if confirmed, would make Enceladus the only place other than Earth where such chemical reactions between rock and heated water are known to be occurring today — and for many scientists, it would make Enceladus a most promising place to look for life.


Any place with liquid water is a candidate for microbial extraterrestrial life. Mars, Titan, Europa, Ceres, Enceladus, and Ganymede have the presence of water ice and speculation that life may exists there. There are now six candidate locations for liquid water in solar system other than Earth.

The Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, another team reported signs of another under-ice ocean, on Ganymede, the largest of Jupiter’s moons. Scientists are already convinced that there is a large ocean, also covered by ice, on another Jovian moon, Europa. NASA’s Galileo spacecraft had also found hints of hidden water on Ganymede and on another of Jupiter’s moons, Callisto.

Journal of Geophysical Review – The search for a subsurface ocean in Ganymede with Hubble Space Telescope observations of its auroral ovals

Europa is estimated to have twice the amount of water as Earth.

Scientists have long suspected that there was an ocean of liquid water on Ganymede — the largest moon in the solar system, at about 3,273 miles (5,268 kilometers) across — has an ocean of liquid water beneath its surface. The Galileo probe measured Ganymede’s magnetic field in 2002, providing some data supporting the theory that the moon has an ocean. It is estimated that Ganymede has more water than Earth.

Liquid water moons of gas giants and in asteroid belts could be common outside our solar system as well. The most common of the thousands of exoplanets that have been identified are gas giants.


Enceladus could have a 10 kilometer thick liquid water Ocean under 30-40 kilometers of ice.



Water appears to make up about 40 percent of Ceres’ volume.



Water on Mars exists today almost exclusively as ice, with a small amount present in the atmosphere as vapor. The only place where water ice is visible at the surface is at the north polar ice cap. Abundant water ice is also present beneath the permanent carbon dioxide ice cap at the Martian south pole and in the shallow subsurface at more temperate latitudes. More than five million cubic kilometers of ice have been identified at or near the surface of modern Mars, enough to cover the whole planet to a depth of 35 meters. Even more ice is likely to be locked away in the deep subsurface.

Some liquid water may occur transiently on the Martian surface today but only under certain conditions.

The case for Titan

Saturn’s moon Titan

Titan is suggested as a target for colonization, because it is the only moon in the Solar System to have a dense atmosphere and is rich in carbon-bearing compounds. Robert Zubrin identified Titan as possessing an abundance of all the elements necessary to support life, making Titan perhaps the most advantageous locale in the outer Solar System for colonization, and saying “In certain ways, Titan is the most hospitable extraterrestrial world within our solar system for human colonization”.

1. Titan has a lot of water ice.
2. Titan has 100 times the hydrocarbons as the Earth. Liquid methane lakes the size of the Great Lakes on Earth. Regular combustion engines or fuel cells could be run on the liquid methane.
3. Titan has an atmosphere that protects against radiation.

hydrosphere of earth 1.5×10^18 short tons
hydrogen 1.67X10^17
deuterium 2.5X10^13 tons

Solid core fission rockets would have enough thrust to weight ratio be able to mine Saturn’s atmostphere.

Titan orbits Saturn once every 15 days and 22 hours. Like the Moon, and many of the satellites of the gas giants, its rotational period is identical to its orbital period; Titan is thus tidally locked in synchronous rotation with Saturn, and always shows one face to the planet.

Robert Zubrin identified Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as “the Persian Gulf of the Solar System”, as the largest sources of deuterium and helium-3 to drive the pending fusion economy, with Saturn the most important and most valuable of the three, because of its relative proximity, low radiation, and excellent system of moons.

Titan has an atmospheric pressure one and a half times that of Earth. This means that the interior air pressure of landing craft and habitats could be set equal or close to the exterior pressure, reducing the difficulty and complexity of structural engineering for landing craft and habitats compared with low or zero pressure environments such as on the Moon, Mars, or the asteroids. The thick atmosphere would also make radiation a non-issue, unlike on the Moon, Mars, or the asteroids.

Titan has a surface gravity of 0.138 g, slightly less than that of the Moon. Managing long-term effects of low gravity on human health would therefore be a significant issue for long-term occupation of Titan, more so than on Mars.

There is a NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts has a study of a submarine for exploring a hydrocarbon liquid lake on Titan.

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