Ask Musk Anything: Elon Musk reveals details of manned Mars trip

From how to get to Mars to the design of his cars, Musk answered fan questions on Reddit in the build-up to his (postponed) rocket launch

The entrepreneur Elon Musk took to Reddit before the planned launch of his Falcon 9 rocket to answer questions from fans on space travel, robot revolutions, and electronic cars – and teased a full revelation of his planned manned mission to Mars later this year.

While the launch of the rocket was eventually postponed to Friday morning, Musk’s answers could still save the day for space travel enthusiasts wanting to know more about his plans to land a person on Mars.

For the lay person, Musk’s most interesting answers were perhaps those he gave about his Mars project, the “Mars Colonial Transporter”. Reddit’s SpaceX fan group asked Musk to clarify what the MCT “actually is”: “Is it a crew module like Dragon, a launch vehicle like Falcon, or a mix of both?” But he remained vague, saying only that it “will be a completely new architecture”.

“[I] am hoping to present that towards the end of this year. Good thing we didn’t do it sooner, as we have learned a huge amount from Falcon and Dragon.”

However it works, his aim is lofty. “[The] goal is 100 metric tons of useful payload to the surface of Mars,” he told another Redditor. That’s the weight required to deliver 100 passengers, and the equipment to support them, to Mars. “This obviously requires a very big spaceship and booster system.”

As to how it would work, he gave a small hint, saying that “at first, I was thinking we would just scale up Falcon Heavy, but it looks like it probably makes more sense just to have a single monster boost stage.”

Musk also answered a few personal questions, including one asking “How do you learn so much so fast?”

“I do kinda feel like my head is full,” he replied. “My context-switching penalty is high and my process isolation is not what it used to be. Frankly, though, I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying.

“One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree – make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

He’s not always deep in thought, though, and happily shares his favourite video games. “I tend to like FPS with a story, like Bioshock, Fallout or Mass Effect, but was also a big fan of Civ and Warcraft.”

As for what daily habit he believes has had the largest positive impact on his life, a one-word reply will do: “Showering”.

While Musk is famous for being a modern renaissance man, the questions he answered tended to stick to the space side of his life, but he did touch on his work with Tesla Motors, the groundbreaking electric car company, hinting at the design of the firm’s upcoming third model.

Not hinting that much, though. He says “It won’t look like other cars”. Thanks, Elon.


Alex Hern

The GuardianTramp

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