June 18, 2014 – Elon Musk has a vision and intends to drive it home with an interplanetary human mission to Mars by 2026. There is a Yiddish word, “chutzpah” that can be ascribed to Mr. Musk. The word roughly translates to mean gutsy or audacious. And he continues to exhibit these characteristics in both the operation of SpaceX and Tesla, his electric car company, that recently indicated it would make its patents available to third parties at no charge.
Musk, in an interview on CNBC this week told viewers,
“I’m hopeful that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10 to 12 years, I think it’s certainly possible for that to occur…..but the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multiplanetary.”
Musk is a huge supporter of the Mars One initiative and I am sure that his CNBC statement is in support of the aggressive timelines that this project has put forward.
I, for one, am highly skeptical about the current state of space technology and what will be needed to safely transit interplanetary space and land human colonists on Mars by 2026. But the chutzpanik Musk is mission driven. He has shown it in developing reusable launch vehicles. And he has shown it in unveiling recently the Dragon V 2.0 space capsule, also reusable.
When SpaceX rolls out the Falcon Heavy in 2015, a rocket launcher with payload delivery capacity equal to NASA’s old Saturn V rocket, he will have created the technology that could lead to the assembly of an interplanetary spaceship. NASA, Roscosmos and ESA will have nothing like this for several years.
So it is hard to ignore the chutzpanik Musk. He has built up SpaceX largely through launch contracts with NASA and today uses the current Dragon capsule and Falcon9 rocket to supply the crews on board the International Space Station. But he is also winning launch contracts with private companies and is in the running to have Dragon V 2.0 become the first American crew capsule to go back to near-Earth space within two years. In his musings about the future and Mars this week he even indicated that SpaceX may become a publicly traded company by the time of the first mission to the Red Planet.