Elon Musk Wants to Test Falcon Heavy's Mars-Bound Successor in 2019

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy test flight happened barely a month ago, but Elon Musk is already pushing ahead to the Next Big Thing — in this case, literally. Speaking at SXSW, the SpaceX CEO announced he wants to put his BFR — that’s Big Falcon Rocket, obviously — in the air by the first half of 2019 and on Mars not so long after.

Mars has been a major interest of Musk’s for years and he’s discussed the topic at SXSW before. As Tech Times notes, Musk told a crowd back in 2016 that “We want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”

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This time around, Musk spoke to the development of the BFR and its own timetable. According to Elon, the BFR design is “evolving rapidly,” and is already under construction. The actual BFR is already under construction and Musk envisions being able to make short up-and-down flights with the spacecraft portion of the BFR system by next year.

The BFR rocket will be powered by 31 Raptor engines; we covered the first test-firing of that engine back in 2016. Right now, Musk wants to send cargo missions to Mars by 2022 and a human crew as soon as 2024. The company’s chances of actually pulling this off should be treated with a significant amount of skepticism. Musk has a habit of missing deadlines, initially predicting that the Falcon Heavy could fly as early as 2013. SpaceX and Tesla have both enjoyed some tremendous successes, but meeting deadlines hasn’t been a major strength of either company.

Musk was on-hand to end the Westworld speaker panel on a note of optimism and to reveal a video put together by show creator Jonathan Nolan, commemorating the launch of Falcon Heavy. Starting the BFR evaluation and longer-term planning for a Mars-shot is an impressive accomplishment as well, but we’ll be holding off on popping the champagne on a 2022 or even 2024 Mars shot for now. Long-term, Musk believes establishing a colony on Mars is the only way to safeguard humanity, a viewpoint that’s been echoed by some like Stephen Hawking.

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“That’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars because Mars is far enough away from Earth that, if there’s a war on Earth, the Mars base might survive,” Musk said. “It’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”

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