Last Tuesday, Elon Musk launched his Tesla roadster into space aboard the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. The car is the first car in space, excluding the numerous rovers that NASA has launched. The Falcon Heavy is currently the most powerful rocket ever to be launched into space, so it is already an accomplishment of great prestige for Elon Musk. After a feat of this magnitude, many may be content to sit back and relax. But not Elon Musk. For the man who divides his day into five-minute time slots, the Falcon Heavy is just the beginning. The next step? Creating a human settlement on Mars.
The Big Falcon Rocket is the next rocket for SpaceX, and it will be much, much bigger than the Falcon Heavy. To launch, it will require a thrust of 11 million pounds. It will need to be over 160 feet long and have enough space to hold humans, and their cargo. That’s right. The Big Falcon Rocket will not just be bringing people to Mars, but it will be bringing them to their new home: a settlement on Mars.
The Falcon Heavy, although a remarkable feat, was merely a test launch. Its goal was to prove that the SpaceX design is effective and can efficiently send a rocket into space. The Falcon Heavy will orbit the sun, coming as close to the star as the Earth and at times moving as far as Mars. The BFR, as the Big Falcon Rocket has come to be known, will not orbit but will head straight for Mars on a voyage that will span several months. For now, Musk and his SpaceX engineers will focus on the Crew Dragon, a craft for transporting humans into orbit, and he will team up with NASA to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space System. Once they have mastered the creation of crafts capable of carrying humans, they will combine it with their Falcon Heavy design and up the scale to create the Big Falcon Rocket. The BFR is scheduled to see its first test launches in three to four years, although this is a very ambitious target. The Falcon Heavy was supposed to launch shortly after 2011, but it didn’t launch until 2018. Nevertheless, if Musk ever does figure out how to send humans to live on Mars, it will quite possibly be not just his greatest achievement, but one of the greatest feats ever achieved by humanity.