SpaceX founder Elon Musk has revealed that his company is working on a program to take CO2 out of the atmosphere by turning it into rocket fuel – claiming that the program will be important for his mission to Mars.
Musk announced the program on social media, Monday, tweeting, “SpaceX is starting a program to take CO2 out of atmosphere & turn it into rocket fuel. Please join if interested… Will also be important for Mars.”
Astrophysicist YouTuber Scott Manley reacted that while “doing this has been demonstrated” before, converting CO2 to power Musk’s Starships “is a whole new level.” Ars Technica Senior Space Editor Eric Berger acknowledged, however, that such a program would “address the growing concern of climate impacts from rocket launches.”
Musk’s fully reusable Starship vehicles are being constructed with the intent of eventually exploring Mars. The billionaire claimed last year that SpaceX would try to send its first unmanned mission to Mars in 2022, with the first manned mission in 2026 – or 2024 “if we get lucky.”
According to SpaceX, Starship will be propelled by a booster rocket, which returns to Earth as the Starship enters orbit. In orbit, the Starship will be refuelled by a fuel ship, which will also then return to Earth, as the Starship heads towards Mars on a six month trip. On Mars, ships will be refuelled using “local resources,” the company claims, before flying back to Earth to be reused.
Not everyone will survive the trip to Mars, however. Earlier this year, Musk warned, “You might not come back alive. But it’s a glorious adventure, and it’ll be an amazing experience.”