Most of us have probably seen the news about trips to Mars and the idea of humans colonizing Mars. The names that surface regularly in this discussion are SpaceX and Elon Musk. Alongside that, a lot of questions arise – What is SpaceX? And is it really possible to get humans on Mars?

SpaceX, a private spaceflight company which regularly launches cargo to space stations with its Falcon9 rocket, will soon be launching astronauts up there and is in the process of creating an interplanetary spacecraft known as the Starship, the company’s Mars colonization system. Elon Musk, SpaceX’s billionaire founder and CEO, has ambitious plans for this rocket spacecraft combo that will carry about 100 passengers and a lot of cargo to and from Mars.

The Starship framework consists of a big spaceship and a giant rocket booster named ‘Super Heavy’. During the launch, a Starship spaceship would be atop the booster and will disconnect once the booster gets low on fuel. The plan is to make both of these vehicles’ reusable, as frequent reuse is the key to Musk’s overall vision and is really essential for making such explorations feasible. One of the main things favourable for this interplanetary mission is the orbital sync which happens once in every 26 months. Musk envisions huge fleets of spaceships to be launched during these brief windows.

Their aspirational goal is to send their first cargo mission to Mars by 2022 with the aim of identifying water resources, hazards and creating a life-supporting infrastructure there. This will be followed by a second mission with both cargo and crew targeted for 2024. The ships from these initial missions will be used to create a sustainable base from which eventually a city and self-sustaining civilization can be evolved. And there won’t be just one Starship as the company plans to create about 100 a year and continue expanding the numbers over the years.

While we are still years away, the SpaceX venture does instil hope to make the sci-fi fantasy of inhabiting another planet a reality within our lifetime. Even though much of the technology that is required for this mission is still catching up, the greater the obstacle, more is the glory in overcoming it. We still don’t know how life will exist in Mars, whether it will be in tents or perhaps underground. While no one knows what the future holds for life on Mars, it is certainly going to be interesting to speculate.

Gauri Nair