Elon Musk discusses his vision for how he plans to colonize Mars

Elon Musk reveals his Mars colonization plans
Elon Musk reveals his Mars colonization plans

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk spilled the details on his plan to colonize Mars.

Musk revealed the plans for an "interplanetary transport system" Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In his address, Musk said that the goal of SpaceX's planned missions to Mars is to turn humans into a "multiplanetary species." Musk has said in the past that making humanity "multiplanetary" is his primary reason for starting SpaceX.

The ship in the video is what the company intends the actual craft to look like, Musk said. It would need to fit about 100 people, and enough cargo to build self-sustaining colonies on the planet, with "iron foundries, pizza joints, you name it."

The red planet is probably the best bet in the solar system for human colonization due to the familiar length of the Martian day (24.5 hours), gravity, and the availability of resources, such as nitrogen for growing plants.

Musk said the risk of fatality would be very high for the first mission, so one of the criteria for going is "are you prepared to die."

Musk even said that he might like to go to the International Space Station and to Mars himself, but "I have to make sure if something goes wrong on the flight and I die there's a good succession plan and the mission of the company continues."

The problem with traveling to Mars is the cost, which, using manned NASA missions as a benchmark, would be extremely expensive. He believes that if the cost can be lowered to about $200,000 a person—about the cost of a house — people will be more likely to buy the ticket. He added that the price "ultimately could drop below $100,000."

SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System
Source: SpaceX

Musk said a crewed mission to Mars could happen in 10 years, "if things go super well."

The sources of funding for this endeavor will include private sector and government investors, profits from servicing the international space station and launching satellites, and Musk's own money, among others.

"The reason I am personally accumulating assets is to fund this," Musk said.

And once there, there would be no shortage of jobs, since "Mars would have a labor shortage for some time," he said.

SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System
Source: SpaceX

The ship would depart every 26 months, when the distance between Earth and Mars is closest.

It would be made in large part of carbon fiber and fueled by methane, which can be synthesized using elements available on Mars itself — a key aspect of the self-sustaining character of the colony Musk wants to build.

Eventually the company would try to double the number of passengers, he added.

Once passenger launches began, Musk estimates it would take 40-100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization on Mars.

SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System
Source: SpaceX

And further trips through solar system could be possible, by establishing "propellant depots" — essentially filling stations for space ships — on moons throughout the solar system and "moon-hopping."

The length of a trip would be 115 days on average, Musk said, though that would range from 80 days to 140. Musk expects that time can be brought to as low as 30 days, eventually.

The crew cabin will have ways of keeping passengers entertained during the long trip, including movies and a restaurant.

SpaceX has said it plans to launch its first uncrewed mission to Mars in 2018.