Elon Musk really can’t wait to get to Mars — and he thinks his space company will be landing there sooner rather than later.
In a new tweet, Musk promised that “SpaceX will be landing Starships on Mars well before 2030.” According to the billionaire, however, the real challenge will be to make “Mars Base Alpha self-sustaining.”
In context, Musk may have been trying to distract from a more substantive question. His tweet was in reply to a Twitter thread about European leaders starting to sweat under the pressure of SpaceX undercutting the price it costs to launch satellites, as Ars Technica‘s Eric Berger argued in a Monday piece.
Europe could end up having a hard time staying competitive when it comes to launching satellites, especially with regards to the European Space Agency’s Ariane 6 booster and smaller Vega-C, both set to make their debut in 2022.
“They are aiming too low,” Musk replied to Ars‘ tweet of the piece. “Only rockets that are fully and rapidly reusable will be competitive. Everything else will seem like a cloth biplane in the age of jets.”
More troubling, however, is that a new ESA initiative is aiming to have its competitive launch system, successor of the Ariane 6 and Vega-C, ready for 2030 and onward — eons from now in SpaceX terms, especially considering the company wants to land on Mars well before then.
SpaceX is racing ahead in its efforts to establish Starship as a reliable cargo and eventual passenger spacecraft. While the company has yet to land its first full-scale prototype — and have it stay in one piece after touchdown — Musk is hoping to have the vehicle go orbital as soon as this summer.
A trip around the moon will follow in 2023, according to his plans, with a first flight to Mars in just four years. Or, at least, that’s what Musk suggested to the International Mars Society Convention in October of last year.
Even once Starship makes it to space and back in one piece for the first time, getting to Mars is a big jump — and establishing a Mars base will be an even bigger one. And those realities are something Musk is probably painfully aware of.