SpaceX ambitious drive of sending humans to Mars has taken a giant leap with the company commencing building the first ships that will make the human voyage to the 'Red Planet' possible in nine months from now.
Elon Musk announced on Friday at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, that his company will be able to send unmanned cargo ships to the red planet in 2022 and 100 explorers will make it to Mars by 2024.
Mars has sometimes located 54 million kilometers from Earth and other times at 401 million kilometers apart from us due to the planets’ constant motion as they rotate on their own and around the sun simultaneously.
The first unmanned cargo ships will be sent to deposit the components needed to build the first off-world colony and look for resources. Along with the crewed spaceship, another pair of cargo ships will be sent to establish the settlement.
Musk said at the world’s largest space conference that the upstart company has plans to use the Interplanetary Transport System to return to the Moon and also to settle rapid point-to-point passenger transportation on the astronomical body.
"The most important thing... is that I think we have figured out how to pay for (BFR)," Musk told a packed auditorium at a global gathering of space experts in Adelaide.
"Which is to have a smaller vehicle, it's still pretty big, but one that can... do everything that's needed in the greater Earth orbit activity."
According to Musk, SpaceX has already started building the system and the construction of the first ship will start in six to nine months.
"I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and launch in about five years," he added.
At least two cargo ships would land on the Red Planet in 2022, with the key mission of finding the best source of water -- currently mooted as a way to power rockets, he said.
The rockets would place power, mining and life-support infrastructure on Mars to support future missions, with four ships set to take people, equipment and supplies to the planet in 2024.
The trips would be funded by a range of activities, including launching satellites, servicing the space station and lunar missions, he said.
Musk added that the rockets should also cater to Earth inhabitants by reducing the travel between major cities to less than half-an-hour.
A trip from Bangkok to Dubai would take 27 minutes, and from Tokyo to Delhi in 30 minutes, according to his calculations.
"Once you are out of the atmosphere, it would be as smooth as silk, no turbulence, nothing," he said.
"There's no weather... and you can get to most long- distance places in less than half-an-hour. If we are building this thing to go to the Moon and Mars, then why not go to other places on Earth as well."
The week-long annual International Astronautical Congress, which concluded Friday, has seen government space agencies and private firms outline their plans to send humans to the Moon and Mars in the next few decades.
This included an agreement between Russian space agency Roscosmos and NASA to work on the first lunar space station as part of a programme called the Deep Space Gateway.