Elon Musk says his ‘Starship’ will first fly humans to the moon, where Mars simulation bases will allow them to train for deep space missions to the red planet

  • Musk said Starship could be used to carry out missions to build a lunar base
  • The rocket is still a prototype but is designed to ferry man to the moon and Mars
  • He also detailed how humans could find food and fuel after landing on Mars 

SpaceX’s Starship rocket has been tapped to one day take man to Mars. 

But, before it can do that, billionaire tech mogul Elon Musk believes the 120-foot-tall spacecraft could also be used to ferry supplies, and eventually humans, to the moon, where we could build a lunar base. 

NASA has long expressed its hope to establish a permanent human presence on the moon, with administrator Jim Bridenstine eyeing a lunar base within the next decade. 

SpaceX’s Starship rocket has been tapped to take man to the moon and Mars. But, before it can do that, Elon Musk believes the spacecraft (pictured) could also be used to build a moon base

‘I think Starship will also be good for creating a base on the moon,’ Musk said in an interview with Popular Mechanics. 

‘We’ll probably have a base on the moon before going to Mars.’ 

SpaceX is in the early stages of constructing the Starship rocket, which was previously referred to as the BFR (Big F***ing Rocket). 

A prototype of the spacecraft is currently being built at a SpaceX campus near Brownsville, Texas. 

In January, the company revealed images of its fully-assembled Starship hopper test rocket. 

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk hopes to bring ‘space tourists’ to the moon by 2024, along with other plans to use Starship to reach the red planet sometime in the future

‘This is for suborbital VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) tests,’ Musk said in a tweet last month. 

‘Orbital version is taller, has thicker skins (won’t wrinkle) & a smoothly curving nose section.’ 

The model he shared is expected to be used for testing short launches and landings.  

Musk hopes to conduct a manned mission with tourists to the moon by 2024. 

Completing a successful mission to the moon would mark an incremental step in Musk’s other vision of traveling to Mars. 

He said it’s possible that they could create a simulated Mars base on the moon. 

‘It would be quite a bit different because the gravity on the moon is much less, and the moon has an atmosphere,’ Musk told Popular Mechanics. 

When pressed further about how humans would fare on the red planet, he said it would be ‘quite manageable.’

In January, the company revealed images of its fully-assembled Starship hopper test rocket. The model Musk shared is expected to be used for testing short launches and landings

Musk says this spacecraft will perform suborbital flights and a taller version with ‘thicker skins’ will take passengers to Mars. The prototype (or hopper) experienced some major setbacks last month when it was toppled by strong winds in Texas

‘If you got there and you’re alive, the hard part is accomplished,’ Musk said.

He believes humans on Mars can cultivate food through hydroponics, or growing plants without soil and instead using a nutrient rich solution, wherein the roots make direct contact with water.

‘You essentially have solar power – unfoiled solar panels on the ground, feed that to underground hydroponics, either underground or shielded by wires, dirt,’ Musk told Popular Mechanics. 

‘So then you can be sure that you don’t have to worry about excessive ultraviolet radiation or a solar storm or something like that.’

He also envisions some sort of ‘park’ for Mars residents to enjoy an ‘outdoorsy, fun atmosphere.’

‘For having an outdoorsy, fun atmosphere, you’d probably want to have some faceted glass dome, with a park, so you can walk around without a suit,’ Musk said.

‘Eventually if you terraform the planet, then you can walk around without a suit. But for say, the next 100-plus years, you’ll have to have a giant pressurized glass dome.’

Musk has previously said humans could ‘terraform’ Mars to make it more livable. 

In his view, terraforming the red planet would involve dropping thermonuclear bombs on the ice at Mars’ poles, with the belief that it could transform Mars into an Earth-like planet. 

Some experts have disputed the idea that humans could terraform Mars, pointing out that it could create unseen, negative consequences. 

Musk believes humans on Mars can cultivate food through hydroponics, or growing plants without soil. Pictured is a mock up of an astronaut using hydroponics to grow food on Mars

Musk has previously said humans could ‘terraform’ Mars to make it more livable. This would involve dropping a thermonuclear bomb on Mars to make it into an ‘Earth-like’ planet 

Additionally, Musk said in the interview that humans could create fuel on Mars via a methane-oxygen system, by harnessing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and combining that with H2O. 

The main challenge, however, would be finding enough ice to take water from. 

Musk said he believes ‘little miner droids’ could one day be tasked with bringing back ice for fuel on the red planet. 

‘If you can land somewhere near a glacier, where there’s only a small amount of dirt with the ice, that would be quite helpful,’ Musk told Popular Mechanics. 

‘…The logical thing to do is basically outfit one of the ships as a propellant plant itself, and just land it on the planet as a working propellant plant. 

‘And then you just need little miner droids to go dig up ice and bring it back and unfurl the solar panels,’ he added.  


The BFR (Big F***ing Rocket), now known as Starship, will complete all missions and is smaller than the ones Musk announced in 2016.

The SpaceX CEO said the rocket would take its first trip to the red planet in 2022, carrying only cargo, followed by a manned mission in 2024 and claimed other SpaceX’s products would be ‘cannibalised’ to pay for it.

The rocket would be partially reusable and capable of flight directly from Earth to Mars.

Once built, Musk believes the rocket could be used for travel on Earth – saying that passengers would be able to get anywhere in under an hour.

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