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Elon Musk: Future Round-Trip To Mars Could Cost Under $500,000

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the colonized-by-rich-people dept.

Mars 238

An anonymous reader writes with this quote from the BBC: "Rocket entrepreneur Elon Musk believes he can get the cost of a round trip to Mars down to about half a million dollars. The SpaceX CEO says he has finally worked out how to do it, and told the BBC he would reveal further details later this year or early in 2013. ... 'My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system between Earth and Mars that is able to re-fuel on Mars — this is very important — so you don't have to carry the return fuel when you go there,' he said. 'The whole system [must be] reusable — nothing is thrown away. That's very important because then you're just down to the cost of the propellant.' ... He conceded the figure was unlikely to be the opening price — rather, the cost of a ticket on a mature system that had been operating for about a decade. Nonetheless, Musk thought such an offering could be introduced in 10 years at best, and 15 at worst."

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238 comments

one word (-1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418567)

bullshit

Re:one word (4, Funny)

kanto (1851816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418637)

bullshit

Doubt that'll make a good rocket-fuel even if it is affordable.

Re:one word (0)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418685)

bullshit

Doubt that'll make a good rocket-fuel even if it is affordable.

Same goes for Martian basalt.

Re:one word (1, Troll)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419411)

Hey. This guy can't make an $80,000 electric car that doesn't brick itself [evworld.com] on deep discharge.

I don't want to trust his lithium-ion, bargain basement Mars mission! "Range-anxiety" on the road? That's one thing. "Range-anxiety" in interplanetary space? Quite another kettle of fish...

Re:one word (2)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418893)

To get into LEO the space shuttle requires 500,000 gallons of liquid propellant and 1 million pounds of solid propellant. How does he propose that he is going to go to mars an back while carrying supplies for the whole trip?

Re:one word (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419073)

He's not going to be using the space shuttle, so what does it matter how much fuel the space shuttle uses?

How does he propose that he is going to go to mars an back while carrying supplies for the whole trip?

The same way you bring supplies for any trip. You figure out what you'll need and you bring it with you.

Re:one word (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419097)

Dragon Spacecraft: just under 5 tons

Space shuttle: 2,000 tons

thats how.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_shuttle [wikipedia.org]

Re:one word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419299)

One Word: Irrelevant

A 5 ton capsule designed to deliver supplies to the space station != a spacecraft that can successfully transport and return humans to/from Mars alive.

SInce a journey to mars will take 9-10 months with a convenient alignment between the planets, travel time would be at least 1.5 years, and the spacecraft would have to carry all its own supplies, it would have to be quite massive.

I think Mr. Musk just forgot to say $500,000 was in 1776 dollars, so that would be approximately $14 million in today's dollars. It certainly won't be in 2022 dollars, when he expects the first flights to be possible.

Re:one word (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419439)

It's an obscenely idiotic claim. We're talking about something that would, no matter which way you cut it, cost billions. It's not even a vaguely believable line of bullcrap, but doubtless he'll scam some moron.

Re:one word (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419919)

Why does it cost billions in order to travel to Mars? Explain that one then I might agree with you. If you are only suggesting it costs billions because the only way government bureaucrats have been able to figure out how to expand their empires to include a manned Mars mission is to ask for a trillion dollars from congress, then that is one approach.

The issue really is one of simply getting into low-Earth orbit cheaply. Drop that cost and getting to Mars can be done quite a bit cheaper. I don't know about a half million per seat, but it certainly could be done for less than a billion dollars a seat much less mutliples of a billion dollars. If mankind is ever going to get to Mars and doing anything realistic there, it simply must be cheaper.

The proof of this concept is simply letting Elon Musk have the legal ability to be able to try to do this, and to do so with his own money. Either he can get it done or not, but if idiots like you go around rewriting laws in Congress so people like him simply can't even try, we will never know if it is even possible. Space exploration is stagnating and the costs are escalating faster than inflation precisely because some groundhogs don't think there is any cheaper or easier way to get into space.

Re:one word (2)

johnjaydk (584895) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419417)

It would be more honest to add in the weight of the required Falcon 9 launcher (334 tons) since You quote the whole Shuttle stack.

Re:one word (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419471)

True, my bad. Nice catch, still not even 1/4 the weight of the shuttle.

Re:one word (1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419837)

I think that your comparing the weight of the capsule to the weight of the entire space shuttle (not just the orbiter). And the space shuttle (orbiter) could (unmanned) be sent to mars to assemble a space station, and then return to earth and be use for another mission, something that the dragon capsule could not do.

Re:one word (5, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419215)

Probably something like this:
1) Use cheap SpaceX rockets to reach LEO.
2) Use multiple launches, carrying components of the Mars craft, the supplies, fuel, and crew on separate launches. This keeps you from needing a Giganto-rocket that ultimately couldn't lift as much as these separate launches anyway.
3) Transfer to Mars orbit (which is easier than getting to LEO)
4) Detach landing craft, land on Mars
5) Re-fuel with fuel conveniently pre-manufactured by previous robotic missions (this is the only part not obvious to me how it would be done for whatever that's worth).
6) Return to orbiter.
7) Return to earth.

LEO is the big obstacle. Earth's gravity well is a killer -- it's the largest of any rocky body in the solar system. If we can make LEO cheap and easy -- which just happens to be Elon Musk's major goal with SpaceX -- then we've made the rest of the solar system significantly cheaper and easier.

Re:one word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419421)

If we can make LEO cheap and easy -- which just happens to be Elon Musk's major goal with SpaceX -- then we've made the rest of the solar system significantly cheaper and easier.

Particularly if the Earth/Mars spacecraft is reusable so you don't need to launch a new one every time.

Re: point #5. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419977)

5) Re-fuel with fuel conveniently pre-manufactured by previous robotic missions (this is the only part not obvious to me how it would be done for whatever that's worth).

The same way as the other stuff.

Get it off Earth.
Get it into orbit on Mars.
When they need it on Mars, have it drop out of orbit.

That way you can also ship extras. Just in case something goes wrong. And spare parts.

correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419331)

"That's very important because then you're just down to the cost of the propellant."

Another "too cheap to meter" misunderstanding or misstatement of costs. Maintenance (scheduled and unscheduled), equipment amortization, facilities, and oh - salaries for the people making this all work.

If the Shuttle had been 100% perfectly reusable, you don't think the cost of an orbital mission would have been just the LOX and LH2 costs, do you?

Half a mill? (5, Funny)

wild_quinine (998562) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418603)

Crikey. He could get that on kickstarter in about half an hour.

I'm reasonably sure that... (0)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418607)

...pink unicorns are involved, so perhaps it's horseshit.

Wait, are unicorns horses?

Re:I'm reasonably sure that... (2)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418669)

Only the ones that fart rainbows.

Re:I'm reasonably sure that... (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418753)

Wait, are unicorns horses?

Technically, they're rodents.

Re:I'm reasonably sure that... (0)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418993)

...pink unicorns are involved, so perhaps it's horseshit.

Wait, are unicorns horses?

I'm not sure, but I've read somewhere that Melkor captured some unicorns once, tortured them and mutilated, and now we have rhinoceroses. So even if they are not horses, they are at least Perissodactyla.

I think musk lost his marbles (1)

spaceplanesfan (2120596) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418609)

Did he launch them in falcon 9 last time?
I mean spaceX is awesome, but he really should have more realistic look on things.
Please first make a human rated space capsule, and actually start launching stuff from its long manifest,
then we will talk mars

Re:I think musk lost his marbles (1)

jayrtfm (148260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418945)

He DID make a human rated capsule, the wheel of cheese survived its Dragon flight just fine. A good argument could be made that the Shuttle was NOT human rated.

Re:I think musk lost his marbles (3, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419243)

I guess a whole lot is going to be riding on this next Falcon 9 launch. If it blows up on the launch pad I would think you might be right. Somehow I doubt that will happen, but who knows?

The problem with your reasoning is that Elon Musk is launching stuff into space and building real spacecraft, hiring real astronauts and getting stuff done. He also has that "crew-rated space capsule" and has even done the math to get it to Mars. In terms of the "long manifest", they are paying deposits to get onto that list, so there must be some actual people with money who are willing to spend several million dollars risking that something is going to happen.

I agree that SpaceX needs to go through the manifest, but Elon Musk does seem like he is able to deliver on his promises.

Re:I think musk lost his marbles (1)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419907)

SpaceX got one thing right: it's conservative.

It's using proven technology with no exotic materials that they had to develop themselves. They're not even using the more efficient Hydrogen as fuel - they're using the less efficient but much more reasonable kerosene. This is what allowed them to develop a reasonable launcher for better-than-reasonable prices.

However, it's a far cry from round trips to Mars. That needs a lot of exotic development and is in uncharted territory, unlike everything else that SpaceX has done before. Musk's promises are worthless here unless he can see into the future.

Captive market (3, Funny)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418615)

The cost of the trip might only be half a mil, but the board and lodging on Mars would run to $1000's per night (minimum stay 8 months until the planetary alignment is right for the return trip). Got to make the money back somehow and it's not like there would be many alternative places to stay

Re:Captive market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39418721)

I bet you could get paid $1000/day on Mars. Captive market for labor as well.

Re:Captive market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419029)

The first thing I'm planning on doing when I get there is opening the Mars Hotel.

Re:Captive market (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419629)

minimum stay 8 months until the planetary alignment is right for the return trip

Technically you can just swing by on a minimum energy Hohmann ellipse and come right back. If you want to stay awhile its either gonna cost more fuel or time until you can set up another minimum fuel ellipse to come back.

If you're willing to burn a tiny tiny little extra fuel, you pass beyond mars orbit ... so you jump a lander craft off on the way out, and rejoin on the way back in. Basically you plan a Hohmann pretending that Mars is in a slightly bigger orbit. Its actually a hell of a lot more complicated than this.

You can model stuff like this with the "orbiter" orbital mechanics simulator from the early 00s (and still going), or you can run the numbers, or just go intuitively.

From memory fooling around with this, the increased fuel in the main machine, and increased fuel in the lander craft, means you are not going to hang around very long... but from memory a couple days was not too unrealistic in terms of increased delta-v?

Re:Captive market (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419653)

(minimum stay 8 months until the planetary alignment is right for the return trip)

That depends on whether you're committed to using an interplanetary transfer without thrust for the large majority of the time. If you can apply thrust the whole way, you have many more options open. Admittedly that means you're not going to be using conventional rockets, but that's pretty obvious in any case. The other advantage of a transfer under power is that it greatly shortens the time that people are at great risk from radiation and solar events like flares.

We don't do those sorts of transfers at the moment though: electronics can be made more robust than flesh.

Of course (3, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418633)

Everything seems plausible, if you don't know what you are doing.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39418773)

Everything seems plausible, if you don't know what you are doing.

Is that your way of saying that you concede?

Or are you trying to say that you know what you're doing more than Elon?

Re:Of course (1)

Shoten (260439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418869)

No, I think he's onto something. The trick is that once you get partway there, you'll be dead from some random solar flare's radiation. So, you won't need NEARLY as many amenities...and since you'll miss your flight back, that saves costs too! I can see the marketing now...

"Our customers love Mars so much, not a single one has decided to come back!"

Re:Of course (4, Insightful)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419025)

Everything seems plausible, if you don't know what you are doing.

I've known some project managers who work along that principle.

Re:Of course (2)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419385)

To say nothing about marketing people and upper management.

The Space Shuttle was supposed to be cheap too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39418641)

It turns out that maintenance of a reusable spacecraft is sometimes more expensive than buying a new one.

Re:The Space Shuttle was supposed to be cheap too (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419111)

It turns out that maintenance of a reusable spacecraft is sometimes more expensive than buying a new one.

. . . if your spacecraft was designed by a congressional committee.

Cost of living (0)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418645)

Wow by the time they get that working that'll be the cost of living back on Earth for the year you'd be gone.

Once space elevators are built on both planets, (1, Interesting)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418679)

with space stations at the top of both elevators, I suppose the trip could be made easier. Much less fuel would be required, since you do not have to break earth's atmosphere, or much of earth's gavity. Landing on Mars would be a non-issue, since you would just have to dock the space station at the end of the Mars space elevator.

Not sure about that time frame.

Just a random thought, I'm not sure if that would actually work.

Not sure about that time frame (0)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418883)

First job is to develop the materials, then a workable design, then raise the (guess) 100 trillion to build it. Maybe 200-500 years.

Re:Not sure about that time frame (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419293)

100 trillion? Where is it in your ass that you're pulling these numbers from?

Re:Not sure about that time frame (2)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419521)

then raise the (guess) 100 trillion to build it. Maybe 200-500 years.

That's actually rather optimistic, in my opinion. The catastrophic devastation that would be caused by a collapse is enough to prevent such a structure from ever being built. And unless we suddenly develop some kind of miracle material that makes nanotubes look ordinary, we'll never have the material needed anyway.

Re:Once space elevators are built on both planets, (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418987)

Been there, done that. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Once space elevators are built on both planets, (3, Informative)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419173)

Incidentally, fuel accounts for about 1% of the $50 million launch cost of a Falcon 9. That's what Elon Musk is trying to say. If you can get to a point where reassembling and reusing the launch vehicle costs as much as it's fuel, you can bring the cost of space flight down by two orders of magnitude.

Re:Once space elevators are built on both planets, (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419661)

And as the shuttle shows, reusable hardware is the most expensive imaginable hardware. Much cheaper to design for recycling than reusing.

Re:Once space elevators are built on both planets, (4, Insightful)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419867)

No, the shuttle shows us that government procured hardware is the most expensive imaginable. After all, when assembling components for the shuttle, the order of business seemed to be 1. Find congressional district where reusable components could be built 2. build them there 3. figure out how to get the stuff where it actually needed to be in the first place. 4. Jobs! I mean Re-election! Er.....Profit!

Musk is almost certainly talking out of his ass. I'll plunk down 500 grand to go to mars right after my Phantom game console shows up. That being said, of all the people trying to make space flight more of a private endevour that it has been in the past, Musk has his name on the very short list of people in the "put up" rather than "shut up" category. He's putting real shit into real orbit, not not dragging tourists up for glorified X-15 flights (no slight to the Virgin / Scaled composites gang, but they're not doing heavy lift at the moment, but what they're doing is Steerman bi-plane rides on a much more awesome scale.)

Re:Once space elevators are built on both planets, (3, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419921)

reusable hardware is the most expensive imaginable hardware

People seem to be saying this because the Space Shuttle was fantastically expensive. The problem with that is that where were a lot of poor decisions that went into the shuttle (the ceramic heat shield, and the solid boosters) that we don't have to repeat in every new reusable launch system. Even in the '90s with Venture Star NASA was trying to move away from those technologies because they knew they were expensive and not beneficial.

There's nothing wrong with looking at your failures, seeing where they went wrong, learning from them, and trying again. The result is by no means a foregone conclusion. Can you imagine if the Wright Brothers had said "people have been trying to build airplanes for a hundred years and no one's succeeded so we may as well not even try." It's absurd to think we should give up on reusable space craft simply because the Space Shuttle didn't save money. Especially since the things that made it too expensive are so obvious and fixable.

Re:Once space elevators are built on both planets, (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419445)

Space elevators are stuff of dreams and the distant future... if they will ever be built. It is an interesting idea, but I'm still not convinced that the technology ever could be built to make them work... Carbon nanotubes and other claims about materials that might be able to withstand the tensile strength needed to get the job done withstanding. It certainly is something that needs the kind of technological progress we've seen over the past 200 years to continue on for another 200+ years.

Also, a Martian space elevator is going to need to perform an even more massive task: Moving Phobos. If the technology to move asteroid sized pieces of rock is commonly available, who needs stuff like space elevators? I guess several well placed nukes might get the job done, but that would be several bombs like the Tsar Bomba and perhaps even more powerful that would be needed to get the job done.

The reason why Phobos is a problem is that its orbit is inside the radius needed to build a space elevator, and that it would run into any elevator built eventually. The same issue applies to a space elevator on the Earth as it would shut down all spaceflight activity in LEO and for that matter just about everything closer than GEO. It is the kind of thing that is all or nothing: When it gets built, everything else must shut down. You can't have a partially completed and semi-functional space elevator built as a prototype.

Trip to Mars Powered by Methane (2)

uslurper (459546) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418695)

Hey powering a trip to Mars is easy!
All you need is methane derived by the inconceivable amounty of bullsh*! produced by Elon Musk.

10-15 years... Really!?

Re:Trip to Mars Powered by Methane (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418917)

I've determined 10-15 years to be the equivalent of "20 minutes" when asked by your kids if you are there yet.

Unbelievable (1)

prehistoricman5 (1539099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418713)

My first reaction to this was WTF, but I think I know the basic idea for his plan: pack as many people into a tin can as possible and send them flying. Couple that with frequent trips and the price drops even further. This is also probably going to involve asteroid/moon mining as well as fuel plants on Mars.

I am still very skeptical that he could get the cost down to 500k/person even with all of those improvements, but a 5m/person cost doesn't seem impossible to achieve with economies of scale.

Re:Unbelievable (3, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418797)

My first reaction to this was WTF, but I think I know the basic idea for his plan: pack as many people into a tin can as possible and send them flying.

    Aside from the little detail of also sending enough supplies to sustain them on the trip and once they get there, and on any presumed return flight, yes.

Re:Unbelievable (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418971)

My first reaction to this was WTF, but I think I know the basic idea for his plan: pack as many people into a tin can as possible and send them flying.

Let's hope they're all hairdressers and telephone sanitizers.

you FaIl It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39418727)

if it were up to me, I'd make it a free* trip to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39418729)

If it were up to me, I'd make it a free trip to mars. But on your way there you have to work 8 hours / day on answering surveys and looking at advertisements, and when you get there, you have to endure 8-months of timeshare talk. By the time you come back, you'll have technically have spent over $18million and bought 4700 condo's in locations that you've never heard of before, especially that nice one that can be found on the moon, which would require you to upgrade to a PREMIUM flight to get there.

Starting cost? (2)

Lunaritian (2018246) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418735)

The article doesn't say how much it would cost to build a space ship like that, so probably several billions at least. Probably won't happen.

But if I can really get a ticket to Mars for half a million, I'll get one no matter what it takes.

How much for one way? (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418781)

Didn't really want to 'retire' any how.

Mars? (2)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418803)

How about we get to LEO for under a million first.

Re:Mars? (4, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418955)

LEO is nearly halfway to Mars surface in terms of delta-v [wikipedia.org] .

So yeah, SpaceX is directly addressing the most important component of making Mars missions economically feasible.

If we can make access LEO a relatively cheap commodity, and make it so we don't have to lift every single thing that we're going to take to Mars all at once, and have a way to have robotic manufacture of fuel on Mars for the trip back, then I can totally see Musk's statement playing out.

It does all hinge on that first huge step though. Fortunately SpaceX is hardly neglecting that part, and progress is promising.

Cheap (0)

mcswell (1102107) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418811)

I bet Arnold could afford a ticket.

Wait, hasn't he already bought his ticket and gone there?

Re:Cheap (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419363)

He doesn't remember.

Fuel? (1)

MisterMidi (1119653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418825)

Is there any fuel on mars he can use? If not, how is it gonna get there? By rocket? Wouldn't it make more sense to just put enough in it for a round trip instead of wasting fuel to get a supply on mars? If there is fuel on mars, will he take some of it back to earth?

Re:Fuel? (4, Informative)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419057)

There is no fuel to be found, but you can make fuel from the atmosphere (CO2) and water (and lots of power from solar cells or fission). This has been proposed for decades now. For everything more than a one-off foot print mission it's certainly worth the effort.

Elon Musk may be a bit crazy, but he's not an idiot. In fact SpaceX has done lots of things meanwhile that were deemed plain impossible with the kind of money they had in hand. The crucial point will be if SpaceX will be a profitable company in the next years. If they manage to make sane profits I'm pretty well sure that Musk will put every penny into going to Mars. He's *that* crazy, really.

Re:Fuel? (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419749)

Elon Musk did say that he wanted to retire by living on Mars, and wants to make sure that he isn't alone there either. Given his age and what he has accomplished so far, he might just make it too.

It sure is a whole lot more sane than spending $30 billion dollars for a rocket that is half as powerful as the Saturn V and costs twice as much per pound as the Space Shuttle designed by the incredibly talented engineering firm known as the United States Senate. Which future do you really want to live in?

Re:Fuel? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419069)

Supply ships can travel only in space and needn't be fast, and don't need to be human-rated either. Therefore they can use more efficient designs than rockets.

Also, since Mars is very Earth-like, it seems very likely that there is fuel there.

Not much "cheap vehicle" experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39418909)

Um, isn't this the CEO of Tesla? Didn't they take a boatload of VC and tax money and are still losing money? Doesn't their cheapest vehicle sell for $50+ even with subsidies?

He can't even get you to the grocery store for less than $50k. Here's a $50 used moped and a cup of gasoline. Ride off someplace that cares.

Re:Not much "cheap vehicle" experience (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419005)

Heh. He's also the CEO of SpaceX, which has the Chinese saying they can't compete with their cost structure.

Re:Not much "cheap vehicle" experience (4, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419631)

If you think that a $50 used moped is just as sexy as a Tesla Roadster and has the same performance characteristics, I suppose you are correct.

As for "taking tax dollars", the only tax money that was dumped into Tesla Motors was a loan program put together under the W. Bush administration originally intended to be for General Motors, but somehow Elon Musk was able to work it out that Tesla qualified for the same program and got some of the money. It was also a loan that had to be paid back.

As for the cost of the vehicle, if you don't like it, don't buy it. The only reason why Tesla is currently "losing money" is because they are ramping up the factory in Fremont, California (the former NUMMI plant) and getting ready for production of the Model S. Tesla Motors did make money off of the Roadster... not just a technical profit but a rather substantial amount. It was enough that Toyota decided to become one of those "venture capitalists" investing in Tesla... where I hope the Toyota corporation knows a thing or two about how to manufacture automobiles. Yes, they are just a minority owner in the company, but it also wasn't a tiny investment either.

Maybe in 2200 or so... (2)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418925)

So basically he's quoting the fuel costs for just the weight of the person and minimal life support for a one-way trip to Mars assuming a more efficient engine than we have today? That's nice, but it doesn't really capture the full extent of the costs for this trip.

Sounds a bit like... (3, Interesting)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418939)

... "Buzz" Aldrin's "Mars" Cycler http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_cycler [wikipedia.org]

Send up a number of transport vehicles that run in an orbit between Mars and earth. It's not fast since it's using "gravity assist" trajectories (i.e. no fuel) all you need is the fuel for a shuttle to transfer the passengers to either the planet surface (or orbiting station).

Have a few of these transports in operation then you can have transfers every 4/12 weeks with the travel time of between 80 and 200 days depending on the orbital positions.

Re:Sounds a bit like... (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419239)

But to hitch a ride on the Mars cycler you would need to match it's velocity with it at some point on it's orbit. But at that point you have already obtained the correct trajectory to get to Mars anyway, so why do you need the cycler?

Re:Sounds a bit like... (1)

hob42 (41735) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419369)

I haven't read any of the details of the idea, but I would guess it would be because you'd have a larger ship, more support equipment, etc., in the cycler and a small, limited capsule to go up and down. Therefore, you'd be using less propellant, since you're accelerating less mass back and forth.

Re:Sounds a bit like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419373)

You can attain that speed on some tiny vehicle, and then transfer to a much larger vehicle designed for a 200 day journey.

Re:Sounds a bit like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419495)

I'll take a claustrophobic tin can where I can't get out of the space suit for a few hours, max of a day. Tell me I have to spend 80-200 days in the same space suit and that is a bit of a problem. More space for people means more mass for the ship, more mass means more cost to accelerate - but if the larger mass stays at speed then you only have to accelerate it once. The tin can just gets you on/off the comfy space ship.
Mass is the driver of the expense to accelerate. Doubling the mass of the ship doesn't just double the mass of the fuel, because now you have more fuel mass to accelerate as well, so need even more fuel. The lighter the ship the proportionately less fuel you need - so assuming equal reuse, the lower the costs.

Re:Sounds a bit like... (3, Informative)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419723)

If i remember correctly Aldrin's original idea was to use the "main tank" from the Space shuttles as the transport vehicles.

The tank was just jettisoned and left to burn up on re-entry, The extra "cost" to take it into orbit would have been negligible.

Then all they would need to do is vent any residual fuel in the tank to the vacuum of space, install a couple of air locks and some viewing ports and you have a habitable pressure vessel.

All that's left to fit is life support and a few home comforts if it's for human transport or a load of cargo straps... ^_^

Then load it up and give it a nudge in the correct direction...

This guy is just a hustler (0)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 2 years ago | (#39418959)

Dont give him money.

Re:This guy is just a hustler (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419361)

He's not asking for your money, so STFU. He's already getting enough money from NASA and corporations to build rockets for them -- and delivering.

In other words, a real company making a real product... unlike you.

Fuel (1)

Lucky75 (1265142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419059)

How does he plan on getting the fuel TO Mars in the first place?

Re:Fuel (3, Informative)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419137)

How does he plan on getting the fuel TO Mars in the first place?

He doesn't want to get it TO Mars, he wants to get it FROM Mars. There's enough CO2 and water there to produce your own fuel and oxidizer from local resources. Has been proposed (and demonstrated engineering-wise) since decades. This is not easy or cheap, but much easier and cheaper than to transport it there from Earth.

Step 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419077)

Create a civilization on Mars and wait for them to build some gas stations ...

Seriously, Musk has obviously gone of his meds. The part about everything being reusable will bring the cost "just down to the cost of the propellant." is so far removed from reality that I question whether he has been alive during the shuttle years. (Hint: the parts of the shuttle that got thrown away were the cheapest even on a per-trip basis) ... or does he think that recycling an interplanetary vessel is just a matter of topping off the tank and turning the nose back the way it came?

Re:Step 1 (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419305)

The single most expensive part of a rocket is it's engine. After that it's the fuel tanks. There is no reason these things couldn't be reused without any significant refurbishment between trips, as long as you could recover them. Indeed, the space shuttle was able to save a lot of money by not replacing the engines after every launch. But they had an expensive experimental heat shield that needed extensive repairs after every launch. Add to that the ill-advised use of solid boosters, and you get what adds up to a really bad idea. There's no reason you can't keep the parts of the shuttle program that worked (reusing the engines) and get rid of the rest (the ceramic heat shield, the solid rocket boosters, putting the orbiter next to the fuel tank instead of on top of it).

Re:Step 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419613)

The data I see on airline operating cost put fuel and oil at 27%. For comparison maintenance is 15% and Flight crew is 12%

I'm gonna stick my neck out and guess that an interplanetary vessel will need more maintenance on a per-flight basis than a commercial aircraft.

The idea that re-usability makes all costs except for fuel go away is just plain stupid.

Re:Step 1 (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419741)

The idea that re-usability makes all costs except for fuel go away is just plain stupid.

Gosh, it's a good thing nobody said that then.

Re:Step 1 (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419735)

The single most expensive part of a rocket is it's engine. After that it's the fuel tanks. There is no reason these things couldn't be reused without any significant refurbishment between trips, as long as you could recover them. Indeed, the space shuttle was able to save a lot of money by not replacing the engines after every launch.

I'm detecting a little history rewriting, or subtle trolling. For anyone who doesn't get it, he's saying the opposite of what actually happened. With the exception that yes, he is correct engines are more expensive than fuel tanks.

The most expensive part of a rocket is its R+D, by a huge margin.

Re:Step 1 (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419801)

The shuttle did save a lot of money by reusing engines. They just lost it elsewhere in the project. I don't see how pointing that out is "rewriting history."

The most expensive part of a rocket is its R+D, by a huge margin.

That really depends how many you launch, don't you think?

Re:Step 1 (1)

hob42 (41735) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419627)

I would assume that most of the interplanetary portion of such a spacecraft would only have to survive one launch up through the atmosphere, rather than repeated ups and downs of, say, the Shuttle. There will always be the crew capsule itself, but for most of the vehicle - yes, it's mostly a matter of topping off the tank and turning it around. Or, not even doing that, if you use a Mars Cycler to go between the two.

Fees add up, read the fine print (4, Funny)

bkmoore (1910118) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419117)

That's just the internet teaser price. Add in checked luggage, oxygen, in-flight meals, in-flight entertainment (plastic head phones), airport taxes, taxi fare, hotel at the destination, and a quarter every time you use the lavatory, and you'll regret ever taking the cheap no-thrills space line. Stick with the established major carriers.

If you can get there why come back? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419179)

You got a whole planet to yourself, no government to mess you up, no nasty people in your business.

Just set up camp and start building your own civilization...

Don't tell me mankind has forgot howto!!!

Space Shuttle (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419193)

"My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system" ... NASA had that vision with the Space Shuttle, but even excluding all R&D and capital purchases, just the incremental costs per launch were orders of magnitude higher than $500k per seat. And that's just to LEO! OK, that's "halfway to anywhere", but maintenance is a bitch, the staff required is huge, on and on... NASA isn't a role model for efficiency, but I seriously doubt that the commercial sector is going to be able to outdevelop them in just 10-15 years.

Re:Space Shuttle (4, Informative)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419389)

"My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system" ... NASA had that vision with the Space Shuttle, but even excluding all R&D and capital purchases, just the incremental costs per launch were orders of magnitude higher than $500k per seat. And that's just to LEO! OK, that's "halfway to anywhere", but maintenance is a bitch, the staff required is huge, on and on... NASA isn't a role model for efficiency, but I seriously doubt that the commercial sector is going to be able to outdevelop them in just 10-15 years.

I thought the same a few years ago, but SpaceX just did everything right then. Hey, they developed a launcher (two actually), launchpads and a spacecraft, built *and* launched them for about the same amount of money as NASA or ESA need to build a single launchpad. ESA's ATV alone (without the launcher and everything else) did cost *more* than what SpaceX did spend altogether until now and ATV is just a one-way orbital transporter with no reentry capability.

Outdeveloping NASA and the other government-fed entities seems very much possible.

Re:Space Shuttle (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419563)

I just think 10-15 years to get completely ahead when they're currently where NASA was in the mid-'60s (initial manned suborbital and LEO exploration) is a bit optimistic.

Longer term I agree. Hands down, the commercial side with greatly outpace NASA and ESA.

Mars Direct - The Case for Mars (4, Informative)

douthat (568842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419203)

His plan sounds a lot like Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct plan detailed in The Case for Mars [wikipedia.org]

Deja vu? Shuttle? (1)

qwe4rty (2599703) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419247)

Long time lurker, had to create an account to post on this one. Wasn't this the whole premise behind the space shuttle...a reusable craft to ferry people to/from the ISS? And didn't this fail because of the extreme abuse the shuttle suffered upon re-entering the atmosphere? And unless he's planning on mining for fuel on Mars, there is going to be the cost of ferrying the fuel to Mars in the first place, regardless of whether or not you are on that ferry...

Who needs to go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419529)

Why go to Mars when we can just implant the memory of going to Mars in your head? Now on sale for only 400k! Its 100k cheaper than actually going!

ROFLMAO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419545)

YHGTBFKM!

What about the Moon?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39419577)

Last time I checked, it's a little closer to us than Mars...

Travelling costs more than propellant (1)

arceum (1828814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419829)

My car is a pretty reusable craft, and though i almost never throw any part of it away, it still seems to cost a lot more than just propellant to keep it going. So, he can design a system to deliver people on Mars with insignificant wear and tear? I think more people would pay 500K for a car that could travel 250 million miles between tune ups.

It's a fanstastic subject (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39419881)

Even more so when it's outside the realm of fantasy. But ignoring the probability of his quoted price. Ignoring the difference between putting humans on Mars vs putting robots on Mars. Ignoring the story here and taking a step back:

What do we do once we get there?

There's science to do. I get that. I'm a fan of science. But what exactly? And why do we want to go do it ourselves?
I've seen this boil down to two reasons: 1) Political showmanship. Getting people interested in science. All that fluff which is identical to faking it in a sound stage. Meh. 2) To colonize. To get our ass out of the cradle. May seem crazy, it's certainly the long view, but I'm actually hip with that reason. It's just SO FAR out there that it seems like stabilizing our own planet seems like a more important task to throw our resources behind. Safeguarding our ability to try for colonies is important.
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