SpaceX Chief Elon Musk revealed new plans to go to the Moon and Mars at a space industry meeting today, yet he finished his discussion with a surprise proposal: using that same interplanetary rocket system for long distance travel on Earth. Musk demonstrated the idea in front of an audience, asserting that it will enable travelers to take “most long distance trips” in just 30 minutes, and go “anywhere on Earth in under an hour” for around the cost of an economy air carrier ticket.
Musk proposed using SpaceX’s upcoming mega-rocket to lift a large spaceship into orbit around the Earth. The ship would then settle down on a floating landing pad close to major population centers and travel destinations. Both the new rocket and spaceship are right now hypothetical, however Musk said that he wants to start development on the rocket in the following six to nine months.
In SpaceX’s video that demonstrates his vision, travelers ride by boat from a dock in New York City to a floating launchpad out in the water. There, they board the same rocket that Musk plans to use to send people to Mars by 2024. However, rather than taking off to another planet once they leave the atmosphere, the ship separates and breaks off towards another city — Shanghai, China.
Only 39 minutes and roughly 7,000 miles later, the ship re-enters Earth and touches down on another floating pad, much like the way SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 rockets. Different routes proposed in the video include Hong Kong to Singapore in 22 minutes, London to Dubai or New York in 29 minutes, and Los Angeles to Toronto in 24 minutes.
This proposed strategy for Earth city to Earth city travel would be, by a long shot, the fastest at any point made by mankind. The ship would achieve a speed of around 18,000 miles for each hour at its pinnacle, Musk stated, which is more than an order of magnitude faster than the Concorde.
Musk exhibited the idea at the very end of his speech, so he was light on details with regards to other logistics encompassing this proposition. (Actually, the majority of Musk’s speech was about how he needs to use this new rocket system to make all present and future Falcon rockets obsolete.) Using the numbers he demonstrated before in the talk while portraying the ship’s ability with respect to the Moon and Mars, we can approximate it could transport between 80 and 200 individuals for every trip. In any case, we don’t know other basics like what percent of the air travel market Musk sees this occupying, how it would be governed, or notwithstanding when SpaceX may attempt such an accomplishment.
We likewise don’t know what the traveler experience would be like, and that is an essential factor in an idea like this. The prospect of taking off on a rocket to space is exciting, just like the potential for adding periods of weightlessness to your excursion to London or wherever. Yet, will people really put their bodies through these sorts of extreme stresses for the sake of saving a few hours on their travel?
And after that there’s the landing. In spite of the rare hiccup, planes arrive with overwhelming success. SpaceX has become good at landing its Falcon 9 rockets both ashore and at sea, and Musk even started his speech by touting how 16 of them have landed successfully in a row. However, the difference between landing a 14-story rocket booster without any passengers and a huge ship loaded with them is one we hope to hear more from Musk in the coming weeks and months.