2072: SpaceX Annual Shareholder Report
Wild Speculation on SpaceX's Timeline To Mars
This post is a submission to the Blog Prize’s 2072 contest. It was written in collaboration with Of All Trades who wrote a post about life on the Moon in 2072 which you can read here.
A self-sufficient human colony on Mars has been an aspiration of SpaceX ever since its founding by Elon Musk (1971-2053) in the first decade of the 21st century. Although we have made significant progress, this vision is still far from fulfilled. Here is a timeline of our progress so far:
2025: Starship is successfully launched, landed, and reused for the first time.
2033: A squadron of autonomous rovers land on the surface of Mars, the first private crafts ever on the surface of the Red Planet. The rovers search for a flat location in close proximity to water to stage the construction of a methane fuel plant. They flatten a wide area, place a field of solar panels, and drill for water.
2036: The next payload to land on Mars brings more vehicles, pre-made versions of the most complex components of the fuel plant, and an inventory of more modular pieces that will be used in assembly.
A combination of autonomous robots and remote controlled machines construct the propellant plant. Any excess methane is outgassed into the atmosphere to facilitate the greenhouse effect.
2038: SpaceX lands the first human mission on mars. They bring enough food and oxygen to spend a week on the surface. Their exoskeleton suits and construction robots help them build an experimental greenhouse, housing both food-plants and oxygen-creating algae. The propellant plant refuels their spacecraft and they return home. The spacecraft lands safely but was too degraded to be reused.
2040: SpaceX misses the 2040 launch window to Mars as modifications to their ship drag on and a legal battle with Blue Origin saps time and resources. Work begins on a moon base for fuel and ship production.
2042: The existing mars base was maintained by solar powered drones through the four year hiatus. The 2042 mission is not manned to save weight. Materials are sent to begin the construction of a steel foundry. A metal 3D printer and several construction arms are also in the payload and are set up into a small programmable assembly line. Most of the greenhouse experiments failed, but a particular algae, Spirolima, is able to adapt well to Martian conditions to produce oxygen and biomass.
2045: The next manned mission to Mars launches successfully, but a month into the voyage astronaut Nichole Ayers (55) suffers a stroke and dies in transit, the first death outside of Earth’s orbit. The event is the current thing for 2 full days, the longest current thing since Trump's faked death in 2031. Congress calls Elon Musk in to testify and many representatives call for the end of private spaceflight due to the dangers it presents to astronauts.
2047-2053: SpaceX continues the 2 year launch schedule, expanding the fuel, metal, and food production facilities on Mars. These 3 launches also prepare living and laboratory facilities to house the first team who will stay on the planet for more than a few weeks. At a public event in November of 2053 a gunman shoots and kills Elon Musk on stage. They are apprehended an hour later carrying a copy of Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence.
2060: After more preparatory launches and collaborations with world governments, SpaceX launches the first mission to Mars that plans to leave people behind crew for a 2 year stint on the Red Planet.
2063: The first semi-permanent crew mission returns to earth, but all of them spend weeks in hospital and physical therapy recovering from gravity sickness.
2068: The Mars base now has thousands of inhabitants, with hundreds of permanent residents. Most are scientists and engineers employed by earth organizations, but an internal economy is starting to develop.
Mouse experiments begin to test the effects of Martian gravity and radiation on pregnancy. Human pregnancy is currently banned on the planet, and both men and women are required to get long-acting reversible contraception devices implanted in their arms before arriving on Mars.
2070: SpaceX, NASA, and CNSA jointly develop a homesteading program for establishing property rights on Mars. Cargo spaceships bring down the price of shipping from Mars. Their huge size is enabled by ship manufacturing plants on the Moon, so they never have to escape Earth orbit. Trips between Mars and the Moon are cheaper and more common than ever, but transport in and out of Earth orbit is still a bottleneck.
2072: This was the first year that the Mars colony did not import any food or basic materials from earth, an important step towards self-sufficiency. Mars also made its first commercial exports this year. Autonomously mined cobalt and lithium profitably sold in the high end electronics market on Earth as terrestrial sources became more expensive and the cost of shipments from Mars continues to fall.
The first restaurant opens on the colony. Human labor is still far too expensive on Mars to support a full time chef, but the robot arms are better cooks than any of the people stationed here anyway. A vegan menu of fresh greenhouse herbs and vegetables is served.
After decades of selective breeding, Martian botanists create a hardy, cactus-like plant which can survive the atmospheric conditions and the intense temperature swings of the Martian day/night cycle. They release thousands of seeds around the colony along with specially bred nitrogen-fixing bacteria in hopes of creating a self-sustaining nitrogen cycle which thickens up the atmosphere.
Beyond: The Martian colony is reaching critical mass. Several terrestrial mining companies have begun or planned construction of factories on Mars. Plans for an space elevator to facilitate greater receiving capacity for shipments from the Moon’s entrepot are likely to be approved by China, India, and the United States.
Still, great challenges remain. Gravity sickness makes it dangerous and costly to return to earth after even single-cycle stays on Mars. LEO reacclimation centers help rebuild muscle mass, but after enough time on Mars it will never fully recover. Mouse pregnancy trials detected an increase in mutation rates and a decrease in muscle mass and bone density. Useful traits for a Martian, but the prospect of a child born on Mars who may be unable to return to Earth is still unacceptable to most.
Doesn't Elon agree with Bostrom about the threat of AI?
Japanese researchers unveil artificial-gravity facilities proposed for Moon and Mars
Japan has a crazy plan to create artificial gravity on the Moon