Life on Mars by 2024, says en­tre­pre­neur

Red Planet rock­ets will ‘get you any­where on Earth in hour’

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - NEWS -

A bil­lion­aire tech en­tre­pre­neur plans to land at least two cargo ships on Mars by 2022 – us­ing a rocket he claims will also be able to take hu­mans any­where on Earth within an hour.

Elon Musk un­veiled his up­dated plans for colonis­ing the Red Planet at the In­ter­na­tional Astro­nau­ti­cal Congress in Ade­laide.

“I feel fairly con­fi­dent we can build the ship and be ready for the launch in five years. Five years seems like a long time for me,” said the SpaceX chief ex­ec­u­tive, who also re­vealed plans for a lu­nar base. Mr Musk wants craft car­ry­ing crews to Mars to ar­rive in 2024, with the cargo ships hav­ing placed power, min­ing and life-sup­port in­fra­struc­ture on the planet two years ear­lier.

SpaceX has a fleet of three space­craft, which the Tesla boss wants to be­come ob­so­lete. In­stead, Mr Musk told the au­di­ence his firm will be­gin stock­pil­ing the Fal­con 9, Fal­con Heavy and Dragon space­crafts, and put all of its re­sources into build­ing the In­ter­plan­e­tary Trans­port Sys­tem (ITS) – co­de­named the BFR.

Mr Musk be­lieves SpaceX can fi­nance its Mars am­bi­tions from its cur­rent work launch­ing satel­lites and ser­vic­ing the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS).

The 46-year-old un­veiled the combo rocket and space­ship at the same con­fer­ence last year, but an­nounced a strip­ping back of the BFR to con­tain fewer main en­gines – 31 – while he also re­leased a con­cept video show­ing the space­craft’s po­ten­tial jour­ney be­tween New York and Shang­hai. “BFR will take you any­where on Earth An in-bound comet 1.5bil­lion miles from the sun has been pic­tured mak­ing the long jour­ney from the edge of the so­lar sys­tem.

The miles-wide lump of frozen wa­ter, gas and dust pho­tographed by the Hub­ble Space Tele­scope is the most dis­tant ac­tive in­com­ing comet ever seen.

Known as C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) or “K2”, the comet has been trav­el­ling for mil­lions of years from its birth­place in the Oort Cloud, a shell of icy ob­jects al­most a light year across on the so­lar sys­tem’s out­er­most fringes.

For the next five years it will con­tinue into the in­ner so­lar sys­tem be­fore reach­ing its clos­est ap­proach to the sun just be­yond the or­bit of Mars. There is no chance of the comet col­lid­ing with Earth.

Be­cause it is be­ing slightly warmed by the sun the comet has started to de­velop a coma, an 80,000 mile-wide fuzzy halo of dust en­velop­ing its solid nu­cleus. in less than 60 mins,” Mr Musk wrote on Twitter. The video added “most long-

Lead re­searcher Dr David Je­witt, from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Los An­ge­les, said: “K2 is so far from the sun and so cold, we know for sure that the ac­tiv­ity – all the fuzzy stuff mak­ing it look like a comet – is not pro­duced, as in other comets, by the evap­o­ra­tion of wa­ter ice.

“In­stead, we think the ac­tiv­ity is due to the sub­li­ma­tion (a solid chang­ing di­rectly into a gas) of su­per­volatiles as K2 makes its maiden en­try into the so­lar sys­tem’s plan­e­tary zone.

“That’s why it’s spe­cial. This comet is so far away and so in­cred­i­bly cold that dis­tance trips” would take less than 30 min­utes. wa­ter ice there is frozen like a rock.”

The Hub­ble ob­ser­va­tions sug­gest that sunlight is heat­ing frozen gases such as oxy­gen, ni­tro­gen, car­bon diox­ide, and car­bon monox­ide that coat the comet’s frigid sur­face.

As the icy volatiles lift off the comet they re­lease dust, form­ing the coma.

“Most comets are dis­cov­ered much closer to the sun, near Jupiter’s or­bit, so by the time we see them, these sur­face volatiles have al­ready been baked off. That’s why I think K2 is the most prim­i­tive comet we’ve seen,” added Dr Je­witt.

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