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SpaceX founder Elon Musk may skip Mars talk at annual space meeting



elon musk bfr big falcon rocket spaceship mars colonization presentation iac pensive thinking unsure hands up mark brake GettyImages 855370074
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk
speaks at the International Astronautical Congress on September
29, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia.

Mark Brake/Getty

  • Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX,
    plans to fly a Japanese billionaire
    around the moon
    in 2023 inside a new rocket ship.
  • But the launch system, called Big Falcon Rocket, is
    ultimately designed to colonize Mars.
  • In September 2016 and 2017, Musk revealed new details
    and updates about his Mars colonization plan at the annual
    International Astronautical
  • IAC organizers hope Musk will return this year, but they
    don’t know if he is coming.

On Monday, Elon Musk revealed the identity of SpaceX’s first
lunar space tourist and shared new details about the company’s
next-generation launch system, called the
Big Falcon Rocket
(BFR for short).

BFR is ultimately designed to
colonize Mars
. In September 2016, Musk debuted his vision for
landing cargo and people on the red planet at the International
Astronautical Congress (IAC): an annual gathering of spaceflight
experts, agency heads, and industry executives. He then provided
an update on this plan at that same meeting in September 2017.

The tacit expectation among fans of SpaceX is that Musk will
return to the next IAC, which the University of Bremen in
Germany is hosting from October 1-5 — just two weeks from now.

But conference organizers say they haven’t heard from Musk about
whether or not he plans to come.

“The last year he decided, I heard it was very spontaneous. Maybe
he’s coming this year, or maybe he’s not,” Annika Teubner, a
University of Bremen spokesperson who’s involved in this year’s
IAC meeting, told Business Insider.

SpaceX BFR
September 2018 rendering of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket, or


Neither SpaceX nor Musk himself responded to Business Insider’s
questions about whether he plans to attend IAC 2018.

SpaceX will have some presence at the conference, though: Hans
Koenigsmann, the company’s vice president of build and flight
reliability, is scheduled to host an hour-long IAC forum on
October 3.

But Koenigsmann’s work is focused on NASA’s Commercial Crew
Program for
transporting astronauts
to and from the International Space
The description of his event on the IAC website doesn’t mention
Mars at all.

“We spoke to Hans Koennigsman, and of course we asked him if Elon
is coming,” Teubner said. “But he couldn’t answer.”

What we know about SpaceX’s Mars plans, so far

mars colonization bfr spaceship elon musk spacex iac 2017 talk
Reusable spaceships might
enable SpaceX to colonize Mars.


The International Astronautical Federation co-organizes the IAC
meeting each year and describes it as “the world’s premier global space
event” and “the one time of the year when all space
actors come together.” Several thousand of the top figures in
spaceflight attend each year, making it the perfect venue to
present to powerful figures in the industry.

During Musk’s
September 2016 talk
at IAC, he said the BFR system would have
two parts: a Big Falcon Booster to heave it off the ground, and a
Big Falcon Spaceship that’d ride on top, into orbit around Earth.

From there, the gigantic and fully reusable spaceship would be
refilled with fuel and fire off to Mars, delivering cargo, crew
members, or both to the red planet’s surface. To get back to
Earth, the ship would fill up on fuel manufactured from sunlight,
water, and Martian air.

Musk returned to IAC
in September 2017
, and revealed that the BFR’s capabilities
had been scaled back by about 50% since his previous talk.
Nevertheless, it was designed to be 35 stories tall and — if
successfully built — ship 150 tons of supplies, along with up to
100 people, to the surface of Mars at a time.

spacex bfr spaceship carbon fiber mandrel elon musk instagram
A roughly 30-foot-diameter
tool that SpaceX will use to build its Big Falcon Rocket

Elon Musk/SpaceX;

Musk also shared an “aspirational” goal to launch the first
uncrewed cargo missions in 2022, followed by the first crewed
missions in 2024.

SpaceX engineers are already toiling to make that happen. Under a
tent at the
Port of Los Angeles
, they’re building a
of the system’s spaceship out of advanced
carbon-fiber composites.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer,
said on September 6 that the
first spaceship prototype may be hopping around the company’s
Texas-based rocket test facility in late 2019.

What Musk might present at IAC 2018 — if he goes

spacex bfr big falcon rocket moon mission lunar event AP_18261101326622
founder Elon Musk presented an updated and “final iteration” of
SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket design on Sept. 17,


On Monday, Musk revealed a major update to the BFR: the
booster-and-spaceship system is now slated to be 387 feet tall,
and the ship will have wings that will also serve as landing
legs. Musk described
the new version as “final,”
but didn’t give new details about
his long-term Mars plan.

It is still unknown how SpaceX’s ship might withstand the
punishment of spaceflight, and how it is supposed to be powered.
(Some renderings show deployable, fan-like solar panels but not
where they are stored.) It’s also still not clear (likely
not even to SpaceX
) how crews might survive on the first
mission, which
and supplies they’d bring with them, and

what, exactly, they’d do
on the Martian surface after
arriving there.

the ship’s interior design
— which dictates the amount of
supplies, equipment, and people it could ferry to Mars — isn’t
settled. Musk said on Monday that SpaceX still only has “some
concepts” for the internal configuration.

These are just a few areas ripe for more explanation from Musk.

“They seem to have tackled a huge aspect of it — the rockets, the
propulsion, the landing,” Ray Wheeler, an advanced life support
researcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center,
previously told
Business Insider. “But having an efficient
and appropriate habitat for the human, reliable life-support
systems, the right spacesuits, and so on? That all demonstrates
the complexity of this whole idea.”

It wouldn’t be too surprising if Musk chooses not to attend IAC
this year, given
other challenges
faced by Tesla, the other company he heads.

But there is a sign Musk might show up: A visual presentation
that he gave during SpaceX’s moon-mission announcement on Monday
is similar in appearance and organization to his two previous IAC

Teubner said that if Musk does decide to attend, the IAC
2018’s Twitter feed
is the place to look for that news.

“If we know about Elon that will be the channel we use to
announce it,” Teubner said.

Are you a SpaceX employee or aerospace-industry insider with
information to share? Contact this reporter by email or using more
secure options listed here.

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