Elon Musk Says We're Going to Have a Full-Fledged 'Mars Base Alpha' by 2028
On the heels of Elon Musk's big reveal of the identity of the world's first space tourist to fly around the Moon, he's made another (seemingly incidental) reveal of SpaceX's timeline for Mars: following his tweet on September 21st that showed SpaceX concept art of four BFR rockets outside a distant, dome-like Mars settlement (paired with the text "Mars Base Alpha"), spaceflight journalist Chris Bergin replied to Musk's post with the tweet "Realistically, when could that view turn from a render into a real photograph?" Musk answered simply "Probably 2028 for a base to be built."
Mars Base Alpha pic.twitter.com/O1llQp8rFY- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 21, 2018
It's an incredibly ambitious claim, considering that the first BFR prototype is still being assembled in a tent in Port Angeles. The Verge points out that it did take SpaceX roughly twice as long as expected to complete the Falcon Heavy rocket, which shows that the company's timelines may not always match up with reality. On top of that, the current dates for major Mars milestones are coming up surprisingly quick: Musk had previously pegged 2022 as the year for the first BFR flight, and 2024 for the first human missions to Mars. At this point, even he admits that these timelines may not be realistic: "We're definitely not sure. We've been pretty unsure about prior dates too. If I had some sort of crystal ball I'd love to know how long something takes."
One of the big issues with travelling to Mars is the problem of orbital alignment: ideally, you'd want the Earth and Mars to be as close as possible when you launch your rockets, and the closest pass between the two planets happens once every two years. As Teslarati points out, it's a small window, and one that has the potential to create major delays. In the meantime, we'll look forward to watching the maiden voyage of the BFR take Japanese art collector Yusaku Maezawa around the Moon in high-def VR.