Yesterday, The Mars Society held part of its four-day annual convention over Zoom. During the Zoom call, prevalent players in the space industry were invited on to discuss certain topics — the most prevalent of those people being Elon Musk.
For Elon Musk, the main topic of discussion was SpaceX’s Starship vehicle and its potential flight to Mars. During the Zoom call, Musk claimed that his company SpaceX was on track to launch an uncrewed mission to Mars via Starship in 2024. Launching in 2024 would put SpaceX right at the second Mars launch window from today.
A “Mars launch window” is considered to be the ideal time to launch a mission to Mars. Various factors contribute to what is considered a Mars launch window, but arguably the most important factor is Earth’s position in relation to Mars. The next Mars launch window is in 2022, and after that, it’s in 2024 — the launch window that SpaceX is apparently targeting for the Starship mission.
Even though Musk has stated on multiple occasions that humans need to inhabit Mars eventually, the 2024 Starship mission won’t be a part of that goal. It will likely serve as a sort of test run to ensure that Starship can indeed travel to Mars and return home to Earth.
Musk also stated on Zoom yesterday that if it weren’t for bi-yearly launch windows, SpaceX would be ready to visit Mars even sooner than 2024. He stated that SpaceX would “have a shot of sending or trying to send something to Mars in three years.”
While this all may come as exciting news, it’s important to take Elon’s projections with a grain of salt. Elon tends to be a bit ambitious with his goals and projections, as he has proven many times in the past.
SpaceX is currently developing the reusable Starship that will travel to Mars at its South Texas facility.
You can watch The Mars Society discussion with Elon Musk here.