SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has described the city he wants to build on Mars, and the strategy his space-faring company will employ to fill it with people and equipment.
Speaking at an 'Ask Me Anything' session on Reddit this week, Musk explained that the colony would most likely comprise glass geodesic domes on the surface of the planet, with large pressurised spaces for infrastructure created underground by robots.
Describing the construction, Musk said that the city would initially consist of "...glass panes with carbon fiber frames to build geodesic domes on the surface, plus a lot of miner/tunneling droids. With the latter, you can build out a huge amount of pressurized space for industrial operations and leave the glass domes for green living space."
Musk described the plan as to begin with scouting missions then send a ship filled only with cargo before any humans make the journey to Mars.
"We are still far from figuring this out in detail, but the current plan is:
- Send Dragon scouting missions, initially just to make sure we know how to land without adding a crater and then to figure out the best way to get water for the CH4/O2 Sabatier Reaction.
- Heart of Gold spaceship flies to Mars loaded only with equipment to build the propellant plant.
- First crewed mission with equipment to build rudimentary base and complete the propellant plant.
- Try to double the number of flights with each Earth-Mars orbital rendezvous, which is every 26 months, until the city can grow by itself."
He added that early missions will mostly transport cargo to the planet in preparation for later journeys carrying more people.
"Early missions will be heavily weighted towards cargo. [The] first crewed mission would have about a dozen people, as the goal will be to build out and troubleshoot the propellant plant and Mars Base Alpha power system," he said.
Understandably, there are still many unanswered questions for Musk and SpaceX, with no firm date yet placed on the Mars missions.
"[The] biggest question right now is sealing the carbon fiber tanks against cryo propellant with hot autogenous pressurization. The oxygen tank also has an oxidation risk problem as it is pressurized with pure, hot oxygen. [We] will almost certainly need to apply an inert layer of some kind.
"Hopefully, something that can be sprayed. If need be, will use thin sheets of invar [a relatively inert material which remains the same mass and volume at different temperatures] welded together on the inside."
Musk also admitted to being a big fan of PC game Kerbal Space Program, which simulates the challenges of space travel, requiring real-world astrophysical calculations in order to succeed.
"Kerbal Space Program!" Musk exclaimed when asked if he had heard of it. "Kerbal is awesome!" He added.
He said that he also enjoys various other games. "I tend to like FPS with a story, like Bioshock, Fallout or Mass Effect, but was also a big fan of Civ and Warcraft."
Another Reddit user asked Musk how he finds time to game with his other commitments. Whilst he didn't answer that particular question, another user suggested that Musk had already invented time travel. "He's probably hiding time travel from us," the user wrote.
Musk also said that the bespoke space suits SpaceX is developing for the missions are being designed at least in part with their look in mind.
"Our spacesuit design is finally coming together and will also be unveiled later this year. We are putting a lot of effort into design aesthetics, not just utility. It needs to both look like a 21st century spacesuit and work well. Really difficult to achieve both," he added.
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