Elon Musk’s comments with questions relayed from the Mars Society Membership by Dr. Robert Zubrin, James L. Burk, and Carie Fay. Following Elon’s 30 min time, Dr. Zubrin took additional questions. This special event was part of the 2020 Mars Society Virtual Convention from October 14-18, 2020.
About Starship Test Schedule:
– entering orbit – with a probability of 80% -90% will take place in 2021
– the probability of the return of the ship and the 1st stage in this flight is 50%
– test of refueling in orbit – 2022
– Starship lunar version – 2022 or 2023
– Starship flight to Mars – around 2024
The goal of the Starship is to build a self-sufficient settlement on Mars as quickly as possible. Musk does not rule out the possibility that this will not be achieved during his lifetime. According to his rough estimates, to create a self-sufficient city, it will be necessary to deliver 1 million tons of cargo, which corresponds to 4-5 million tons in a low Earth orbit. Modern single-use launch vehicles are capable of removing less than 1% of this value.
“Disposable launch vehicles are completely stupid. They are a waste of time. I think people need to stop wasting time on this. If you try to sell a disposable plane, you will be thrown out of the office. If you try to sell a disposable car, you will also be thrown out of the office. “
A series of questions and answers followed:
What is the best landing site on Mars?
– I’m not sure about that. But I can name the criteria. The first of these is latitude: most likely it will be in the northern hemisphere, far enough to the north to have water ice, but to still have enough sunlight.It also needs to be low to get the most benefit from atmospheric braking.
How do you prioritize mission priorities: research, infrastructure construction, and science?
– The first will be the construction of a fuel plant.
A question from a teenager who wants to become an engineer and robot maker with a dream to work at SpaceX: what is the most important education in order to become an engineer?
– There are many varieties of this profession: you can be an aerospace engineer, in the field of electronics, software, or a chemical engineer involved in creating safe production of fuels. I think physics is a good foundation for critical thinking.
Boring Company was originally conceived as a tunnel manufacturing firm on Mars?
– No. It was originally something of a joke. I thought tunnels were a good solution to reduce the traffic problem in cities and improve the quality of life by turning parking lots into green parks. To do this, you need to go to 3d [get away from the “flat” infrastructure – approx. per.]. I think tunnels are good for Mars too. But there you need a lot lighter equipment: you don’t care about mass on Earth, but you will have to take care of it a lot when going to Mars.
At Boring Company, have you learned a lot of technology that might come in handy on Mars?
– I think, yes.
Do you have any tips for young people who love Mars but don’t know how to participate in its settlement?
– I think any strong advocate of the need to conquer Mars matters. People often don’t even think about it. I often talk to people who don’t even know about it. Therefore, I consider it important for humanity and consciousness in general to bring a discussion about this to society. Talking about it with friends and acquaintances – I think this is what we should do. In my estimate, we will spend less than 1% of our efforts on Mars exploration, exactly less than healthcare, perhaps even less than cosmetics – this will be enough to make life multi-planetary. But this requires people to start talking about it 100 times more often. I think this is what really matters. [the entire cosmonautics of the world is $ 424 billion a year, while cosmetics is $ 532 billion, and tobacco production is $ 849 billion – approx. per.]
What’s the coolest part about Starship development?
– I think the coolest detail is the ability to work with a great group of engineers and come up with interesting solutions. I think the best thing is the opportunity to work with smart and creative people who come up with solutions that were not available before. This is a great reward.
What do you focus on when hiring, especially with regard to engineers?
“We’re looking for signs of exceptional ability. Or at the very least, striving to do exceptional things at SpaceX.
Are you planning to make a Mars-Earth communication system like Starlink?
– Yes, I think we will use a laser, probably launched into orbit, to avoid atmospheric diffraction. Thus, it will be a laser beam going from the orbit of the Earth to the orbit of Mars. And also relay satellites in solar orbit, since the laser beam cannot be sent through the Sun [when it is between Mars and Earth – approx. per.].
Can Starship be used for other destinations like Venus and other planets?
– Starship will be able to travel to any target in the solar system that has a solid surface when fuel depots appear. It is not the kind of transport that will take us to other stars, but when we become a multi-planetary species, we will create a demand for innovation in space travel that will ultimately lead us to interstellar travel.