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Elon Musk lets us in on his plans for putting humans on Mars

Elon Musk speaking at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress, about SpaceX's plans to turn humanity into a multiplanet species. Credit: SpaceX

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Tuesday, September 27, 2016, 6:37 PM - In order for humanity to have the best chances of survival in this universe, we need to become a multi-planet species. On Tuesday, Elon Musk revealed his vision for SpaceX making that happen.

In a talk at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress, in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk presented SpaceX's vision for putting humans on Mars - not only to visit, explore and discover, but also to establish the first human off-world colony.

Using a more advanced version of their current rocket system and spacecraft, the company plans to launch multiple colony ships to Mars, loaded with around 100 people per ship, as shown in the video below.

Based on this plan, the system architecture for developing a civilization on Mars involves every part of the system being reusable, at least to some extent.

Rockets would be reused 1000 times, fuel tankers 100 times and colony ships a dozen times, each. Credit: SpaceX

The BIG rocket that SpaceX plans on using to get us to Mars. Credit: SpaceX

The spacecraft that the Mars colonists will travel in to their new home. Credit: SpaceX

This reusability is going to be the key behind bridging what Musk described as the gap between wanting to go to Mars and being able to afford to go to Mars.

What this journey will require, is a way to make the journey available to everyone, or nearly everyone who wants to go. Credit: SpaceX

Musk's presentation came just one day after SpaceX successfully tested their Raptor interplanetary transport engine - the propulsion system that will power the company's Red Dragon spacecraft on its way to Mars.

Why this push to Mars?

As mentioned above, in order to give humanity its best chance of survival in this universe, we need to become a multi-planet species. By moving out into space, to colonize other worlds, we insulate ourselves from extinction, because if something disastrous were to befall Earth - ecological collapse, global warfare, asteroid strike, etc - those living off-world would survive to carry on.

The Moon is certainly a closer target - easier to get to and from, and easier to resupply - but Mars is a more attractive destination for a self-sustaining colony. The gravity is stronger than on the Moon, and the atmosphere is thick enough to provide more protection against solar radiation.

Our robots have explored the planet for decades now, from orbit and from the surface. The push now is to put the first humans on Mars, and we may actually achieve this within the next decade.

The path Elon Musk has laid out for that journey promises to be fascinating and ambitious.

Watch Below: Hubble gives us an updated look at the Red Planet

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