Elon Musk said on Tuesday that his company SpaceX plans to send humans to Mars within the next ten years. Musk was interviewed on an episode of the Lex Fridman Podcast, where he spoke at length about his company’s goals for reaching the Red Planet.
Fridman asked Musk what he thought a likely timeline was for the project, to which the world’s richest man replied: “Best case is about five years, worst case 10 years.”
Musk said that success hinges on “engineering the vehicle,” noting that “Starship is the most complex and advanced rocket that’s ever been made.” Starship is the latest model of rocket manufactured by SpaceX.
“The fundamental optimization of Starship is minimizing the cost per ton to orbit — and ultimately cost per ton to orbit and ultimately cost per ton to the surface of Mars,” Musk explained on the podcast.
Musk made it clear that the mission stands apart from everything humans have accomplished in space before, saying that “no amount of money can get you a ticket to Mars.”
Scientists discover water on Mars
Mars has experienced a resurgence in interest from scientists after the European Space Agency announced earlier this month that they have discovered “significant amounts of water” in the Valles Marineris on the planet.
The discovery was made by an orbiter traveling around the planet, called the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. The orbiter was launched in 2016 as part of a mission conducted by the European Space Agency and Roscosmos.
The orbiter discovered the water in Valles Marineris, an extensive canyon system on the red planet that is 10 times longer, five times deeper, and 20 times wider than the Grand Canyon in the United States.
The water was detected by the orbiter called FREND, or Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector. The discovery came as something of a surprise as Mars’ water is typically found in its polar regions in the form of ice, and its canyon system is situated south of the red planet’s equator, where temperatures are too high for water ice to exist.
A study describing the discovery was published on Wednesday in the journal Icarus.
“With (the Trace Gas Orbiter) we can look down to one meter below this dusty layer and see what’s really going on below Mars’ surface — and, crucially, locate water-rich ‘oases’ that couldn’t be detected with previous instruments,” said study author Igor Mitrofanov in a statement.
“FREND revealed an area with an unusually large amount of hydrogen in the colossal Valles Marineris canyon system: assuming the hydrogen we see is bound into water molecules, as much as 40% of the near-surface material in this region appears to be water.”