Elon Musk founded SpaceX 17 years ago with a single goal in mind, to put people on Mars.
His other efforts — launching satellites, beaming internet from space, and flying astronauts to the International Space Station —are just means to that end.
“I think we need to become a multi-planet species, and we were clearly not getting there based on the progress in the space industry,” Musk said in 2012. “So I started SpaceX to try to solve that problem.”
For years, his ideas for a rocket and spaceship capable of transporting people to Mars were purely theoretical.
In 2019, however, one Mars transport concept came to life as an early prototype, and over the summer it completed several low-altitude tests in Texas. Now SpaceX is building a more powerful prototype that could be launched into Earth’s orbit by the end of this year.
On Saturday, Musk is set to host an event at the Texas test site to give the most thorough update in two years about SpaceX’s interplanetary travel ambitions — plans that have undergone significant revisions.
The company is pouring substantial time and resources into the building the hardware it needs to reach Mars,an enterprise that Musk has said could cost between $2 billion and $10 billion. Under current plans, the company would use Starship, a spaceship that would fly into orbit atop a massive rocket booster called Super Heavy.
Starship and Super Heavy are expected to replace the company’s line of Falcon rockets, which regularly launch satellites into Earth’s orbit. Musk has said he wants a spaceship to make its first uncrewed trek to Mars in 2022, carrying cargo.
Now that testing for the new system has moved from computer simulations to the real world, SpaceX engineers can make more concrete decisions about the spacecraft’s final design.
That’s why the space industry and its fandom are anxious to hear from Musk, SpaceX’s CEO and lead designer, on Saturday.