If you’ve always wanted to retire to Mars, your dreams just got a little more realistic.
On Tuesday, SpaceX announced its plans to colonize Mars!
While NASA is planning to send a few astronauts to visit Mars in the 2030s, SpaceX CEO Elon
Musk announced that his company will send people to the Red Planet within the next decade.
Here’s their plan:
A crew of about a hundred people will blast off on a new SpaceX launch system called the
Interplanetary Transportation System, which consists of a booster and a crew capsule.
It’s set to go into production within the next few years.
The booster is powered by forty-two Raptor engines and uses methane and oxygen for fuel.
The Raptor engine is three times more powerful than SpaceX’s current engine, Merlin, and
completed its first firing test on Monday.
Once in space, the booster and crew capsule will separate.
The booster will return to Earth, landing back where it started: On the launch pad SpaceX
has been renting since 2013 — the same one used by Apollo 11, the first mission to land
humans on the moon.
While the crewed spacecraft hangs out in orbit, a propellant tanker filled with extra fuel
will be loaded onto the booster.
Then, it’ll blast off again.
一旦进入轨道 推进箱会在指定地点和乘客航天器会合为其填充燃料 然后
Once in orbit, the tanker will rendezvous with the crewed spacecraft to fuel it, then
will return to Earth again.
The tanker will make anywhere between three and five refueling trips before the spacecraft
is ready to go.
This may seems adding extra steps, but by fueling in orbit, the transport system can
use a smaller two-stage rocket instead of a three-stage one that would have to be much
bigger and cost a lot more money.
Once it’s fueled, the spacecraft will head off to Mars, reaching a cruising speed of
more than 100,000 kilometers per hour.
Around four months later, the spacecraft will land on Mars, using thrusters for a slow,
It’ll be nice to have made it, but SpaceX doesn’t plan to make these trips one-way.
When the craft is to ready to leave, it’ll refuel on the Martian surface!
Since Mars has a mainly carbon dioxide atmosphere and a lot of water ice, they’ll break down
these materials with a small propellant plant and create more methane and oxygen fuel to
power the craft.
And because Mars has much weaker gravity than Earth, they won’t need a big booster to
get it into orbit.
The first manned flight to Mars could be as early as 2023, and eventually, Musk wants
to send hundreds or even thousands of ships to build a colony of up to a million people.
Of course, there are all kinds of challenges SpaceX needs to overcome before they can send
/anyone/ to Mars.
For one thing, they have to get the launch system to work — including all those landings
and re-launches to refuel in orbit.
They’ll also need to build that propellant plant on Mars so they can send people home.
So there’s a lot that still needs to be done before any of this can become a reality.
But someday, you might be able to book a trip to Mars on a SpaceX ship.
And they don’t plan to stop with Mars — eventually, the Transport System could also be used to
visit Jupiter’s moons, like Europa.
Speaking of Europa, NASA announced Monday that they’ve found new evidence for water
plumes on its surface!
Europa is a little smaller than our Moon, but it has an ocean that holds twice the amount
of water as all the oceans on Earth combined.
It’s one of the most life-friendly places in our solar system, besides Earth.
Problem is, that ocean is covered in a sheet of ice that’s kilometers thick.
NASA hopes to someday land on Europa and takes samples from its ocean, but to get through
the ice, that spacecraft would have to carry heavy, expensive drilling equipment.
And heavy equipment means more rocket fuel, which means an even more expensive mission.
But in 2012, NASA observed water plumes erupting more than 200 kilometers high near Europa’s
Unfortunately, the data seemed inconsistent, and they needed more research to figure out
exactly what they were seeing.
If these plumes did exist, though, we wouldn’t need any drilling equipment to get to Europa’s
All we’d need to do is fly by the surface and drop a robot in a plume!
A mission to Europa would become much more affordable — and realistic.
And on Monday, NASA announced they’ve found more evidence these plumes really do exist!
The research team used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe Europa as it passed in front of
Not only did they see plumes, but they saw them in the same place the 2012 team did,
down near Europa’s south pole.
One of the reasons the data has been so hard to confirm is because the plumes don’t operate
on a regular schedule.
Of the 10 times the team observed Europa looking for plumes, they only saw them three times.
NASA will keep observing the plumes using Hubble, and continue collecting data with
the James Webb Space Telescope once it launches in 2018.
And even though NASA isn’t ready to land on Europa any time soon, a fly-by mission
is in the early planning stages.
It would launch in the 2020s.
If NASA decides to move forward with the mission, it should be able to fly through one of Europa’s
plumes and collect a sample if the opportunity arises.
So, between the Hubble and Webb data and the possibility of a flyby mission, it looks like
we’ll be learning a lot more about Europa for years to come.
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