Elon Musk's "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, took to Reddit today for a question & answer session titled, "I am Elon Musk, ask me anything about becoming a spacefaring civ!" Musk elaborated on his plan while answering related queries in this Reddit session. The session was hosted as a "supplement" to the Mars colonization plans previously unveiled by Musk in end-September.
Answering questions on refueling and power
Musk explained that the first few missions to Mars would be scouting and equipment-testing missions involving SpaceX's unmanned Red Dragon capsule. The Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) would then be used to ship materials for a fuel plant and power system in Mars. A crewed mission would then be sent to set up the fuel plant and the power system for Mars Base Alpha.
Answering questions on rocket technology
Musk said that the ITS spaceship would be able to withstand forces of 20G without breaking apart. Musk also clarified that the ITS booster would have hover capability to be used only in case of emergencies. Answering a question on Falcon 9 rockets, Musk said that Falcon 9 rockets, in theory, could be reused indefinitely if proper and scheduled maintenance was carried out.
Elon Musk on hovering rockets
"A high acceleration landing is a lot more efficient, so there wouldn't be any hovering unless it encountered a problem or unexpected wind conditions. A rocket that lands slowly is wasting a lot of fuel," Musk said in reply to a question on hovering rockets.
What about habitats on Mars?
Musk said "geodesic domes" with "glass panes with carbon fiber frames" would be used as habitats. He also advocated the use of miner and tunnelling droids in the colony, so that a "huge amount of pressurized space" could be used for industrial operations, while the more expensive glass domes would be reserved for living space. However, Musk did not provide details on droid use.
Other questions about the Mars missions
Earth and Mars come the closest to each other every 26 months, and this window is generally used to launch Mars missions. Musk said that SpaceX would aim to double flights to Mars during these windows. However, Musk added that even without the window, in case of emergencies, the ITS would be powerful enough to travel from Earth to Mars or vice versa.