X

A look at Elon Musk's plan to move us to Mars (pictures)

The SpaceX founder has an audacious plan to build the first Martian metropolis, and he just might have the rockets to pull it off.

Eric Mack
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Eric Mack
screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-23-36-pm.png
1 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

Musk's Mars rocket

In a much-anticipated talk at a space conference in Mexico on Tuesday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk revealed his grand ambition to build a city on Mars of as many as a million people and as soon as the 2060s. The plan centers on a huge new SpaceX rocket (shown here in a slide from Musk's presentation) even more powerful than the huge Saturn V rockets used for the Apollo missions of the 1960s and '70s.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-28-43-pm.png
2 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

New grand-daddy of all rockets

This comparison shows how the SpaceX Mars rocket, powered by nearly 50 Raptor engines, will dwarf most other rockets.

elon-musk-spacex-mexico-ica-2016.jpg
3 of 15 Oscar Gutierrez/CNET

Rocket man

Musk on stage at the International Astronautical Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. The SpaceX CEO laid out an audacious plan over the course of a few hours detailing a timeline that begins with initial flights to Mars within a decade working toward a goal of a self-sustaining Martian metropolis.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-48-05-pm.png
4 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

So far... lots of rockets

A timeline of SpaceX rocket launches so far. Musk has built an impressive commercial rocket enterprise in 15 years, but it's nothing compared with what he hopes to accomplish in the next 40 years.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-29-44-pm.png
5 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little / CNET

SpaceX vs. Saturn V

A comparison of the SpaceX Mars vehicle and Saturn V rocket used for NASA's moon missions.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-36-24-pm.png
6 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little / CNET

Your ride to Mars

This slide from Musk's Mars show details the SpaceX space ship that would transport passengers between Mars and Earth and perhaps even deeper into the solar system. It is designed to eventually carry 100 passengers, although at one point Musk mentioned he hoped to have ships with twice that capacity.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-31-23-pm.png
7 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little / CNET

Meet the Raptor

A look at the engine that will power SpaceX Mars missions. Each rocket will carry 47 of these to create over three times more thrust than a Saturn V rocket.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-35-36-pm.png
8 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

Raptors in formation

This slide shows how the dozens of engines in each Mars rocket would be configured.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-32-58-pm.png
9 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

One hefty rocket

A break down of the specs on the Mars rocket booster that will do most of the heavy lifting for Mars missions to get payloads out of Earth's gravity well. Afterward, it separates and returns to Earth to be re-used, just like what SpaceX has started to demonstrate with its Falcon 9 rockets.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-1-01-22-pm.png
10 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

Inside a future space ship

The view from inside the development tank for SpaceX's Mars ship.

elon-musk-spacex-mexico-ica-2016-7.jpg
11 of 15 Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Musk and "future Mars"

Throughout the presentation, the depiction of Mars behind Musk would change, sometimes appearing as the dry, desolate Mars we know, and other times appearing transformed into a more Earth-like world with clouds and patches of green.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-1-02-48-pm.png
12 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

Mars is not enough

As if building a metropolis on Mars weren't ambitious enough, Musk ended by noting that SpaceX's space ships could be ideal for exploring the rest of the solar system of refueling stations were setup on places like Saturn's moon Enceladus.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-1-03-38-pm.png
13 of 15 Screen shot by Morgan Little/CNET

Cosmic filling stops

Europa, which has been in the news this week as a place worth exploring for potential life, is another place Musk envisions as good for setting up a cosmic gas station.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-07-23-pm.png
14 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

Mars economics

To make his Martian metropolis feasible, Musk said it would be first necesarry to bring down the cost of moving to the red planet to under $200,000 in today's dollars.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-12-45-40-pm.png
15 of 15 Screenshot by Morgan Little/CNET

Martian fiesta?

Back in 2002, the early SpaceX team shows it has what it takes to make humans an interplanetary species... or something. For all the details, be sure to check out our live coverage of the event.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra
magic-v2-2024-foldable-1383

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites
img-0368.jpg

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?
img-1599-2.jpg

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos