All Astronautical Evolution posts in 2019:

The Destiny of Civilisations – Fire, Iron and Gold (November)

The Destiny of Civilisations – A Problem for SETI (November)

The Holy Grail of Space (October)

Return to the Moon, 50 Years On (August)

The Case for Interstellar Flight (June)

SpaceX Dragon 2 Success (April)

Killing the Doomsday Fallacy (Feb.)

All Astronautical Evolution posts in 2018:

How Far Can We Take the Copernican Principle? (Dec.)

Dawkins and the McGraths: a Biologist versus two Theologians (Nov.)

The Atheism Question (Oct.)

The Religion Question (Sept.)

I, Starship (June)

Back to 2017:

Scenario Block Diagram Analysis of the Galactic Evolution of Life (Nov.)

Comments by Alex Tolley (Oct.)

Elon Musk’s “Great Martian” (Oct.)

Elon Musk’s Mars Plans: Highlights from His Second Iteration (Sept.)

What is a Supercivilisation? (Aug.)

Quantifying the Assumptions Behind the METI Debate (July)

Five Principles of a Sustainable Manned Mars Programme (June)

Pale Red Dot: Mars comes to Oxford (May)

Back to 2016:

Elon Musk and Mars: Looking for a Snowball Effect (Oct.)

New in 2020:

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AE posts:

2021: New space company Planetopolis…

2020: Cruising in Space…

2019: The Doomsday Fallacy, SpaceX successes…

2018: I, Starship, atheism versus religion, the Copernican principle…

2017: Mars, Supercivilisations, METI…

2016: Stragegic goal for manned spaceflight…

2015: The Pluto Controversy, Mars, SETI…

2014: Skylon, the Great Space Debate, exponential growth, the Fermi “paradox”…

2013: Manned spaceflight, sustainability, the Singularity, Voyager 1, philosophy, ET…

2012: Bulgakov vs. Clarke, starships, the Doomsday Argument…

2011: Manned spaceflight, evolution, worldships, battle for the future…

2010: Views on progress, the Great Sociology Dust-Up…

Chronological index

Subject index

General essays:

Index to essaysincluding:

Talk presented to students at the International Space University, May 2016

Basic concepts of Astronautical Evolution

Options for Growth and Sustainability

Mars on the Interstellar Roadmap (2015)

The Great Sociology Debate (2011)

Building Selenopolis (2008)


Issue 149, 1 October 2019 – 50th Apollo Anniversary Year

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The Holy Grail of Space

A masterclass in what really matters for spaceflight

From Elon Musk’s latest public presentation at Boca Chica, Texas, on 28 September – the eleventh anniversary of the first time SpaceX reached orbit with its fourth and last Falcon 1:

Elon Musk gives an update on Starship

“The point of this presentation and this event is really – there are two elements to it. One is to inspire the public, get people excited about our future in space and get people fired up about the future.

(Slide: An Exciting future, full of wonder & possibility, out among the stars.)

“There are so many things to worry about, so many things to be concerned about, there are many troubles in the world, of course, and these are important and we need to solve them.

“But we also need things that make us excited to be alive, that make us glad to wake up in the morning, and be fired up about the future and think, yeah! the future’s gonna be great! – you know, and this – space exploration – is one of those things.

“And becoming a spacefaring civilisation, being out there among the stars, this is one of the things that, I know, makes me glad to be alive, I think it makes many people glad to be alive. It’s one of the best things.

“And we’re faced with a choice: which future do you want? Do you want the future where we become a spacefaring civilisation and are on many worlds and out there among the stars, or one where we are forever confined to Earth? And I say it is the first, and I hope you agree with me!


“The critical breakthrough that’s needed for us to become a spacefaring civilisation is to make space travel like air travel. So with air travel when you fly a plane, you fly that plane many times.

“At the risk of stating the obvious, it really, almost, any mode of transport – whether it’s a plane, a car, a horse, a bicycle – is reusable. You use that mode of transport many times. And if you had to get a new plane every time you flew somewhere, and even get to have two planes for a return journey, very few people could afford to fly. Or if you could use a car only once, very few people could afford to drive a car.

(Slide: Critical breakthrough to make life multiplanetary is for space travel to be like air travel – Requires rapidly reusable rockets.)

“So the critical breakthrough that’s necessary is a rapidly reusable orbital rocket. This is basically the Holy Grail of space, and the fundamental thing that’s required. And it is a very hard thing to do. It’s only barely possible with the physics of Earth. If Earth’s gravity was a little heavier, it would be impossible. And if Earth’s gravity was a little lighter, it would be quite easy.” (1:33-4:10)

And there you have it. What all the mainstream space agencies have been missing ever since Apollo 17 returned from the Moon: we need to –

The Holy Grail of space, indeed!

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