Elon Musk Says Mars Rocket Could Fly Passengers Anywhere on Earth in an Hour

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The world is a big place, but SpaceX is looking to make it feel a bit smaller with a new mode of transportation. At the recent International Astronautical Congress (IAC), CEO Elon Musk gave an update on the company’s Mars colonization rocket. What really stole the show was a new potential use for that rocket. According to Musk, the Mars rocket could also be used to transport people from one spot on Earth to any other in about an hour.

The 43-minute presentation at IAC marks the first time SpaceX has provided detailed information about the BFR spacecraft. SpaceX still plans to build and launch two BFR (which stands for Big F***ing Rocket) cargo missions to Mars in 2022, followed by manned flights as soon as 2024. That got polite applause from the crowd at IAC. Musk saved the Earth transport idea for the very end–like an Apple-esque “one more thing.” It got big applause.

In the concept video, we see passengers boarding a ferry that takes them to a floating launch platform in New York. They move to the BFR, which then takes off and flies in a ballistic trajectory into space. The first stage detaches and flies back down for landing and reuse, just like the Falcon 9 booster does now. The second stage with its passengers continues its flight, landing propulsively in Shanghai about half an hour later. That’s a trip that would take about 15 hours by plane, and that assumes no layovers.

Musk says most of what we consider “long” flights would only take 30 minutes or so aboard the BFR, which would reach speeds of 18,000 miles per hour (27,000 kph). You could get anywhere, no matter how far, in an hour. You’re probably wondering how many millions of dollars this trip would cost. SpaceX is apparently quite confident in its cost-saving measures, as Musk later clarified on his Instagram page that a ticket on the BFR would cost the same as an economy airline seat.

There are obviously a lot of hurdles between Musk’s announcement and hopping a rocket to Asia in real life. The BFR doesn’t exist in real life yet, and it would need extensive testing before SpaceX would be allowed to take on passengers. There’s also a public perception issue. While rockets are seen as safe enough for cargo and a few brave astronauts, cramming a few hundred passengers on board for a jaunt across the globe might be a tough sell. But if it works out? The BFR could be truly revolutionary.

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