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SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System liftoff
An artist’s conception shows SpaceX’s Interplanetary Transport System lifting off with a refueling tanker sitting beside it. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s vision to send a million people to Mars is now in print, but the billionaire visionary says he’s already working on an update.

The newly published print version, appearing on the New Space website, recaps Musk’s 95-minute talk at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico last September – during which he laid out a decades-long plan to develop and launch fleets of giant spaceships to Mars, each carrying 100 passengers at a time.

The presentation has been online in video form for months, with accompanying slides, but the text-plus-graphics version is arguably easier to scan and digest. It’ll be available for free through July 5, after which time it’ll presumably be downloadable for a fee in the range of $51.

“Publishing this paper provides not only an opportunity for the spacefaring community to read the SpaceX vision in print with all the charts in context, but also serves as a valuable archival reference for future studies and planning,” former NASA executive Scott Hubbard, New Space’s editor-in-chief, said in a news release.

The 16-page printed plan suggests missions to Mars could lift off from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which SpaceX is leasing. “In the future, we expect to add additional launch locations, probably adding one on the south coast of Texas,” Musk wrote.

In a couple of tweets sent out today, Musk said Version 2 will be coming out soon:

In the past, Musk has mentioned three ways to cover what’s sure to be the multibillion-dollar cost of development and operation:

  • Satellite broadband revenue: Once SpaceX’s satellite constellation swings into operation to provide global internet access, the company expects the network to generate tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue. SpaceX’s engineering center in Redmond, Wash., is playing a lead role in developing the constellation. When Musk laid out the satellite plan during a 2015 visit to Seattle, he promised the proceeds would “help fund a city on Mars.”
  • Passenger fares: Passengers will pay a six figures for their trips to Mars. Musk said the cost for an Apollo-style trip would be $10 billion or more per person, but he hoped to get the price tag down to $200,000 or less. “This is not easy,” he acknowledged. Musk’s key technologies for economizing include full rocket reusability, in-space refueling and methane propellant production on Mars.
  • Public-private-personal partnership: Musk said there were “many people in the private sector who are interested in helping to fund a base on Mars.” Government funding is likely to be available as well. And Musk noted that “the main reason I am personally accumulating assets is in order to fund this.” His net worth is currently estimated at more than $17 billion.

SpaceX is already laying out money to develop and test the methane-fueled Raptor rocket engines that would be used on Mars-bound spaceships, as well as the giant carbon-composite propellant tanks that would be required. (Not long ago, one tank was “tested to failure” on a barge based at Anacortes, Wash.)

So what else does Musk have up his sleeve? Stay tuned for V2.

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