Here’s how Elon Musk’s giant new rocket system might land people on Mars

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SpaceX/YouTube

Tech billionaire and SpaceX founder Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars with a million people in an effort to protect humanity from certain doom.

To that end, on Tuesday afternoon during a keynote talk at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk will unveil his ambitious plans to establish a human settlement on the red planet.

But before the event, which is broadcasting live on YouTube, SpaceX revealed a new video of its new Interplanetary Transport System (ITS).

Based on that clip, here’s how Musk’s ambitious plan to launch dozens of people at a time to the red planet might work.


First, passengers load into a giant spaceship on top of the ITS.

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SpaceX/YouTube

Musk has said on Twitter that the ITS is 12 meters (39 feet) wide and 122 meters (400 feet) tall.

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SpaceX/YouTube

Source: Twitter


The giant ITS will launch from a futuristic-looking version of NASA’s Cape Canaveral, Florida, launchpad 39A — the same one used by Apollo 11 astronauts to get to the moon.

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SpaceX/YouTube

At the bottom of the rocket are 42 separate rocket engines, presumably the Raptor design Musk unveiled on September 26.

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SpaceX/YouTube

Those ignite with 28.7 million pounds of thrust — nearly four times greater than NASA’s Saturn V rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the moon.

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SpaceX/YouTube

The enormous first-stage rocket booster detaches itself, deploying an unnamed spaceship to low-Earth orbit.

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SpaceX/YouTube

Meanwhile, the booster heads back to Earth…

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SpaceX/YouTube

Re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere…

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SpaceX/YouTube

…And lands back at the launchpad — similar to SpaceX’s recyclable Falcon 9 rocket boosters. This prevents the need to trash them in the ocean, allowing their reuse, plus saving money and time.

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SpaceX/YouTube

A propellant tanker is loaded on top of the booster and soon launches back into orbit.

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SpaceX/YouTube

Then, in orbit, the tanker refuels the spaceship.

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SpaceX/YouTube

The tanker heads back to Earth for a future launch…

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SpaceX/YouTube

…While the spaceship continues on to Mars.

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SpaceX/YouTube

Once fueled up, the spaceship deploys fan-like blades of solar panels, which provide 200,000 watts of power.

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SpaceX/YouTube

The finned spaceship begins making its way to Mars at a clip of 62,600 mph, setting up a multi-month journey to the red planet.

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SpaceX/YouTube

Once the giant spaceship arrives, it begins its descent to Mars.

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SpaceX/YouTube

The spaceship partly slows down while plowing through the red planet’s atmosphere, generating 3,000 degrees of heat.

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SpaceX/YouTube

It then fires retro-rocket boosters…

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SpaceX/YouTube

…Makes a soft landing…

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SpaceX/YouTube

…And lets its passengers walk onto the new territory of Mars.

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SpaceX/YouTube