Previous: How We Used the Moon to Send Radio Messages
Next: What Movies Get Wrong About Space



View count:257,393
Last sync:2019-06-16 13:00
To support SciShow Space and learn more about Brilliant, go to

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced some ambitious plans at the International Aeronautical Congress. If he's right, we could have humans living on the moon and Mars within a decade, and you might never have an 18 hour flight again!

We want to learn more about you and your opinions! If you have time, please take a moment to fill out this survey:
Thank you!

Hosted by: Hank Green
Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon:
Dooblydoo thanks go to the following Patreon supporters:
Kevin Bealer, Mark Terrio-Cameron, KatieMarie Magnone, Inerri, D.A. Noe, Charles Southerland, Fatima Iqbal,
سلطان الخليفي, Nicholas Smith, Tim Curwick, Scott Satovsky Jr, Philippe von Bergen, Bella Nash, Chris Peters, Patrick D. Ashmore, Piya Shedden, Charles George
Like SciShow? Want to help support us, and also get things to put on your walls, cover your torso and hold your liquids? Check out our awesome products over at DFTBA Records:
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?


This episode was brought to you by [♪ INTRO] About a year ago, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the company’s ambitious goal to put a million humans on Mars by the end of the century.

And last week, he was back with a more detailed plan and some even bigger ideas. Because if Elon Musk doesn’t disrupt the entire space industry every time he gives a talk, does it even count?

It all went down at the International Aeronautical Congress, a yearly meeting of space agency heads, aerospace experts, and industry leaders in Adelaide, Australia. Just like last year, the plans rely on being able to launch the same rocket over and over again, a concept SpaceX uses a lot. They’ve now launched and landed sixteen Falcon 9 rockets in a row, and earlier this year, they reused one of those boosters for the first time ever.

Last year, the company revealed plans to build an Interplanetary Transport System, which would send hundreds of people to Mars in the early 2020s. Now, they’re still planning to send people to Mars, but after twelve months to think about it, they’ve scaled back their rocket design a bit. But don’t worry.

It is still really, really big. They don’t have the final name figured out yet, but in the meantime, they’re calling this new vehicle the BFR, which almost definitely stands for Big Fracking Rocket. Which if you ask me, is probably a better name than what they’re going to officially decide on.

Either way, it’s planned to be one of the largest rockets ever built. BFR will consist of 31 engines, stand 106 meters tall, and have a diameter of nearly 9 meters. That’s dramatically larger than any rocket available today, and it will be even more powerful than the Space Launch System, the rocket NASA is currently working on.

In a fully-reusable configuration, it will be able to put 150 metric tons into Earth orbit, 20 more than the SLS. And unlike the SLS, BFR will also be able to fly over and over again, which should make the cost of a flight way less expensive. Musk said that besides going to Mars, BFR will also be able to fly to all sorts of smaller destinations, like delivering cargo to the International Space Station or launching a bunch of satellites, which would help the company pay for the cost of developing it.

And it could be used to start a moon base! Because why not? During his presentation, Musk teased pictures of what he called Moonbase Alpha, a futuristic, sci-fi-looking outpost.

The Moon might only be a few days away, compared to the months-long trip to Mars, but returning there would give everyone involved more experience to help them plan the safest journey to the Red Planet. Still, for a new launch vehicle to really make economic sense, the company needs to go all-in on it, and that is exactly what they plan to do. Besides getting funding from all these smaller missions, SpaceX plans to eventually stop building their other stuff: the Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy, and the Dragon capsule.

But all that experience won’t go to waste. Years of launching and landing the Falcon 9 have taught them about reusable rockets, while the Falcon Heavy is teaching them the unique challenges of building a really big rocket. By switching to just one system, they’ll be able to focus their time and resources on one product that combines all of those lessons.

And in a few years, all of this might even lead to a city on Mars, at least, according to Musk. At last week’s talk, he proposed sending uncrewed BFRs to Mars as early as 2022, with crewed missions only two years later. But building a Mars colony has a lot of challenges, like how to get fuel or oxygen.

Or everything else. To produce water, oxygen, and even rocket fuel on Mars, SpaceX might use a reaction called the Sabatier process, which chemists have known about for around a hundred years. It would involve combining hydrogen brought from Earth, or from the water ice on Mars, with carbon dioxide pulled from the Martian atmosphere.

Of course it’s important to note, we’ve never tried to make it happen on Mars. And before you put me on a BFR, I would want to know that there was air waiting for me on the other end! SpaceX plans to start building the rocket sometime next year, but they have a lot to figure out before then.

As if all of this weren’t enough, Musk also suggests that the BFR could compete with airlines here on Earth, flying travelers anywhere on the planet in less than an hour. Traveling at up to 27,000 kilometers per hour, you could get from LA to Australia in about 40 minutes. Which sounds awesome, but also a little ambitious, even for SpaceX.

For now, though, the company still has a lot of other goals on their plate. They plan to fly the Falcon Heavy for the first time by the end of this year, they hope to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station by 2019, and, y’know, still have all the time and money needed to build the BFR. Mostly, this seems more like sci-fi than real life right now, but SpaceX has never been a company to aim low.

So someday, you might be watching SciShow Space from the comfort of your BFR-delivered habitat, but there’s still a very, very long way to go. To accomplish all this, of course Elon Musk will need an energetic generation of scientists, astronomers, and programmers, and SciShow Space viewers are great candidates. Our partner has unlocked access to their Bus to Mars quiz for free, now through October 12.

Go to and design your own mission using an elongated orbit from Earth to Mars, figure out how much fuel it would need, and how much time it would take. You can sign up to check your answers. If you want much more to explore, and to support SciShow Space, click the link in the description and sign up for free.

As a bonus, the first 200 people to subscribe to Brilliant will get a 20% discount on their annual subscription, which unlocks all of the quizzes for you to learn about a wide range of subjects. [♪ OUTRO]