Elon Says SpaceX Could Land Cargo Mission to Moon in 2021

In an interview with Time magazine, Elon Musk thinks SpaceX could land a cargo mission to the moon in less than two years. Time magazine editor-at-large Jeffrey Kluger’s interview with Elon Musk for CBS Sunday Morning.

Elon thinks a manned mission to the moon is possible by 2022.

This would be three years faster than NASA’s current plans to use the ULA Space Launch System to get back to the moon. It would be two years faster than NASA’s planned human moon in 2024.

Jeff DeWit, NASA’s chief financial officer, told Business Insider that if Musk and SpaceX pull off a private moon landing in 2021 then NASA will partner with SpaceX and get there faster. It is unclear when SpaceX will have proven enough to NASA for them to finally make the shift.

Elon Musk said that it may literally be easier to just land Starship on the moon than try to convince NASA that we can.

Key Sections of the Transcript of the CBS Morning Interview With Elon Musk

MUSK: [We’re] basically taking everything we’ve learned from Falcon 9 and putting it into Starship. Starship is super next level.

KLUGER: It seems to be, and that a question that I would like to ask you.

MUSK: Yeah, Starship’s mind-blowing. I mean, there’s not even anything that’s ever been proposed on on the caliber of Starship that I’m aware of.

KLUGER: You don’t have to be a space geek like I am to know that you folks are building some beautiful machines. The original Falcon was sleek and lean and beautiful. The 9 is terrific. The Heavy, it’s the biggest machine flying today.

MUSK: Yes.

KLUGER: You could get to the moon with maybe two Heavies, it would take, or maybe just one Heavy?

MUSK: Yeah. Well, I think you probably would wanna do it with two, but you could absolutely do it with three.

KLUGER: And in that case, I guess my question is instead of going with what you’ve got and saying, “Let’s get ourselves to the moon in three years,” you’re going an even more ambitious step further with Super-Heavy, the BFR and Starship.

MUSK: Well, I think we could sort of repeat Apollo 11 and do a few, small missions, send people back to the moon. But it would be somewhat of a repeat of Apollo. And it’s like, the remake’s never as good as the original. (LAUGHS)

So I think, like, we really wanna have a vehicle that is capable of sending enough payload to the moon or Mars, such that we could have a full lunar base, a permanently occupied lunar base would be, I know, incredible. You know, we’ve got a permanently occupied base in Antarctica. And it’d be absolutely way cooler to have a science base on the moon.

KLUGER: I would agree on that, yeah.

MUSK: Yeah. It’d be super great. And so if you’re having a base on the moon now you need a lotta cargo. If you look at, say, the lunar lander it was pretty small.

KLUGER: It was tiny.

KLUGER: And it was made out aluminum foil origami, basically!

MUSK: Yes, exactly. It was incredible engineering. But just very tiny. So we need something big. To have a self-sustaining city on Mars, you gotta decide, “Okay, how you gonna get a million tons to Mars?”

KLUGER: Larger goals, if you had to bet your house on when the next boot prints would be on the moon and when those would be SpaceX? So those may be two different questions. This is just spit-balling. What kind of timeframe do you see?

MUSK: Well, this is gonna sound pretty crazy, but I think we could land on the moon in less than two years. Certainly with an un-crewed vehicle I believe we could land on the moon in two years. So then maybe within a year or two of that we could be sending crew. I would say four years at the outside.

KLUGER: And when you say, “We,” do you mean the United States or you mean SpaceX?

MUSK: Well I’m not sure, I mean, if we’ve got two choices, which, if it were to take longer to convince NASA and the authorities that we can do it versus just doing it, then we might just do it. I think we wanna aim to do it and then enable our capability, but it may literally be easier to just land Starship on the moon than try to convince NASA that we can. It might actually be easier to just do it. I don’t know. ‘Cause obviously this is, like, a decision authority that’s out of my hands. But the sheer amount of effort required to convince a large number of skeptical engineers at NASA that we can do it is very high. And not unreasonably so, ’cause they’re like, “Uh, come on. How could this possibly work?” But the skepticism, they’d have good reasons for it. But the for sure way to end the skepticism is just do it.

KLUGER: Just do it, yeah–

MUSK: “Hey, look. Here’s a picture of landing there right now!” (LAUGHS) That might be the better way to do it. We’ll see. But I think sending crews to Mars in four years, I think that sounds pretty doable. Like, internally we would aim for two years and then reality might be four.

Elon Also Talked About Launching With Planes for an Initial Stage

Getting to orbit from an aircraft is actually counterproductive according to Elon. It sort of seems like it would be helpful. But it’s really not that helpful. The aircraft maybe helps 2% and then all the negatives of an aircraft are minus 20%. It’s like a 10x difference. For suborbital flight aircraft is fine. But not for orbit.

SOURCES – CBS, Elon Musk, Time Magazine Editor, Business Insider
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

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