It's been almost a year since SpaceX founder and Mars obsessive Elon Musk laid out his elaborate and insanely ambitious plan to build a colony, one million humans strong, on the Red Planet. Now he's ready to announce some tweaks to his multiplanetary magnum opus. Musk announced his scheme, which focused largely on the rockets and spacecraft that could transport people to Mars rather than the Martian colony itself, at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico last year.
Then, over the summer, Musk revealed that the plan has "evolved quite a bit." Specifically, he said in an interview that the size of the vehicles that may ferry Mars pioneers has been decreased somewhat to make it less expensive. The revised design could be capable of performing missions for Earth orbit as well as Mars. "Maybe we can pay for it by using it for Earth orbit activity. That's one of the key elements of the new architecture," he said.
He later explained via Twitter that reducing the diameter of the vehicles would also allow them to fit in current SpaceX factories: A 9m diameter vehicle fits in our existing factories ...
Musk held off on publishing the revised plan and design in order to present it in person at this year's Astronautical Congress gathering in Adelaide, Australia on the last day of the conference, Sept. 29. According to the conference site, Musk will share what is probably one of the most eagerly anticipated slideshows in the galaxy in the afternoon and it will be live-streamed worldwide.
The IAC meeting is also set to include the latest on Lockheed Martin's vision for a Mars Base Camp designed to support NASA's plans to send astronauts to the fourth planet using the upcoming Space Launch System and Orion capsule. NASA and President Trump have set a target of getting human footprints on Mars in the 2030s, but Lockheed Martin says its plan could be ready for astronauts by 2028, a timeline that, interestingly enough, is closer to what Musk and SpaceX have in mind.