In Brief

Elon Musk: people living on Mars could send Snapchats to Earth

SpaceX founder says a bespoke internet system may be needed for interplanetary communication

Elon Musk has revealed his plans for colonising Mars during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on the chat forum Reddit - and they may involve setting up a bespoke space internet system. 

Asked by a fan whether the red planet would need its own internet infrastructure to communicate with Earth, the SpaceX and Tesla founder first (jokingly) called them a “nerd” before saying that simple web communications could be possible if the planets are close enough. 

The distance between Earth and Mars is more than 22 light-minutes (246 million miles) at the further approach, he said, while the minimum distance is closer to three light-minutes (34 million miles).

At this minimum distance, Musk continued, internet users on Mars could send simple web messages to earthlings such as Snapchat images, “if that’s a thing in the future”.

The South African-born billionaire added that his aerospace firm SpaceX is focusing on developing the key infrastructure needed for human life to live on Mars, rather than working towards the futuristic cities seen in recent teaser videos. 

“Our goal is get you there and ensure the basic infrastructure for propellant production and survival is in place,” he said. “A vast amount of industry will need to be built on Mars by many other companies and millions of people.” 

SpaceX will also begin test flights of its interplanetary spaceship - dubbed BFR (Big F***ing Rocket) - on Earth within “the next couple years”, reports TechCrunch

Early tests will see rockets launched “a couple of hundred kilometres” into Earth’s atmosphere, the website says, and will then be followed by “orbital flights”.

Musk’s Reddit AMA session on Saturday came less than a month after he announced plans to send an unmanned rocket to Mars by 2022, with passenger flights expected two years after that. 

He also told the International Astronautical Congress, in Australia, that the upcoming BFR could be used for high-speed passenger flights on Earth, which could shrink the journey time between New York and Shanghai to just 39 minutes.

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