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Forget Venice and Barcelona, you'll soon be adding Mars to your bucket list
Posted on 08/03/2019

NewFrance

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Elon Musk has predicted that in six years, travelling to Mars will be a possibility. The founder and billionaire behind SpaceX has revealed his plan to introduce round-trip journeys to Mars. A holiday to Mars could cost around 500,000 dollars when first rolled out, but this could drop to 100,000 depending on the trip's success rate. Fancy a literal out-of-this-world adventure? Read on.

Why Mars?

Why Mars?
Vadim Sadovski/123RF

South African technology mogul Elon Musk is the founder of SpaceX, a space exploration company that was born in 2002 out of Musk's frustration that NASA wasn't doing enough to get people to the Red Planet. His determination doesn't just spring from a desire to make Mars a tourist destination, but also due to his concerns over the future of our own planet. In a 2011 interview he said that he hopes to send humans to Mars' surface in 10 to 20 years.

Since its founding, SpaceX has developed a number of impressive aerospace systems. However, it is going to take a lot of ingenuity to develop a system that can even land on Mars, let alone carry a number of inexperienced nonastronauts out there.

The idea

SpaceX is taking all that it's learnt as a company and combining it with expertise to bring together a space vehicle called the Big Falcon Rocket or BFR. This 380-foot system consists of two parts: the 18-storey Big Falcon Spaceship and a Big Falcon Booster of a similar size. The booster will help launch the spaceship to Mars. At the present moment, Musk has said that the spaceship is the most difficult part to get right, and that a team of engineers is currently attempting to build a prototype spaceship out of carbon-fiber materials. This is where SpaceX is focusing most of its attention. However, the more pressing issue is how the project will cater to passengers. The company is meeting with NASA and other parties to discuss its Mars mission plans and the priority of these discussions will be the work that needs to be done to ensure passengers are safe during the flights.

When is the first launch?

When is the first launch?
Konstantin Shaklein/123RF

The tentative date of the first launch has been set for 2022. In order for the ship to launch, it would first need to orbit the Earth, where it would use up most of its fuel, and then other tanker ships would refuel it for the rest of the journey to Mars. It's still uncertain how many flights will be needed or how long the operation will take. Mars and Earth get closer once every two years, so the best date for a practice launch lands sometime in summer 2022. Depending on how efficient the Big Falcon Spaceship is at changing its speed, it could take anywhere between a few months to a year to land on Mars.

How will the conditions of Mars allow for humans to visit?

The first spaceship won't be flying out empty. Indeed, Musk intends for the Big Falcon to be full of cargo and machines that would help with accommodating the planet's future visitors. The proposed cargo would include things that would help generate power and collect water. These raw materials would then be turned into methane fuel and oxygen for return to the Earth.

Calling all hopeful space tourists

SpaceX recently revealed that there is already a volunteer to be the first passenger aboard the Big Falcon Spaceship. Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire has proposed to pay an undisclosed sum to be the first passenger aboard the ship. He also wishes to book the entire ship to bring along with him six to eight guests from various backgrounds for the week long trip in 2023. Musk said that the money the billionaire has proposed would help greatly with the mission and ultimately help SpaceX with its main goal of allowing the average citizen to visit other planets.

So when will the project be ready for the average tourist?

So when will the project be ready for the average tourist?
Vadim Sadovski/123RF

Assuming the cargo and supply missions are successful, Musk is optimistic that by 2024 there will be one or two crews sent to Mars.

SpaceX is watching its back

Believe it or not, Space X has a competitor, and they're not going down without a fight. Blue Origin, an aerospace firm launched by Jeff Bezos, has plans to operate a space tourism business as well with its New Shepard rocket. Bezos told an interviewer in October 2018 that there isn't much of a relationship between the two companies and that they are more competitors than anything else. At the present moment Bezos doesn't have a timeline for his business unlike Musk, and he assures his team that it's not a race. However, if Musk is successful and offers tickets for 500,000 USD per trip, his competitor will charge prices ranging from 200,000 to 300,000 USD. If you're interested in a different type of adventure for your travels in the next five years, keep your eye on Mars!

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