According to Independent report concludes 2033 human Mars mission is not feasible

An independent report concluded that NASA has no chance of sending humans to Mars by 2033, with the earliest such a mission could be flown being the late 2030s.

Which doesn't surprise me at all, since I've been reading we are going to Mars from NASA since the early 90's with dates which were in the first decade of 2000, then the date being kicked forward every time it approached, and since then, there were at least 17 Mars mission plans by NASA which never happened, having the first one a suggested launch date as early as 1971.

But SpaceX is a different story, since this is the first time they announce a date, and they've shown they can do things which weren't done before, like a fully-reusable rocket. Yet, given NASA missions which never happened, and others bunch of Mars planned missions by other groups which never happened, one wonders of the feasibility of it.

Is there any independent evaluation/report on the feasibility of SpaceX going to Mars by 2024?

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    $\begingroup$ " this is the first time they announce a date" ? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 15:06
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    $\begingroup$ "do things things which weren't done before, like a landable rocket" ? $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ ...but they have shown they're good at missing their dates $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ You can edit the question if there are false statements. Did SpaceX announce dates prior to 2024 for going to Mars? 2024 is the first one I've heard. Were there rockets which reached outer space and returned to Earth without having to drop parts of it such as boosters and tanks to reach orbit before SpaceX's? $\endgroup$
    – Pablo
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


I don't have any independent evaluations on hand but it is almost completely certain that SpaceX will not have any rockets landing on Mars in 2024 or leaving for Mars in 2024. Launch windows aren't every day, on average Earth-Mars transfer windows occur every two years. For SpaceX to "make it to Mars by 2024", they'd need to launch in 2020, 2022, or 2024.

  • 2020 June: Starship has not achieved orbit yet. It is impossible that Starship and Superheavy will be ready to perform interplanetary missions in under four Months at the current rate of development. While extremely unlikely, SpaceX could theoretically scramble a Falcon Heavy which is capable of delivering a very small amount of cargo to Mars but as of the time that this is being written, SpaceX has announced no plans to do so.
  • 2022 August: Optimistic estimates and Elon's aspirations put Starship in orbital testing at this time. According to Elon (and the SpaceX website), orbital tests for the Starship are supposed to happen in "2020" however it's most likely going to slip into 2021/2022 at due to "Elon time" and other complications in general. Even if Starship is fully operational, it is unlikely that Superheavy will be ready at this point and I don't think humans will be riding Starship just yet.
  • 2024 September: At this point it is optimistically possible that Starship and Superheavy are capable of semi-regular orbital operations. The "Dear Moon" mission is provisionally scheduled for 2023 which means that SpaceX is hoping to have Starship be man-rated and capable of performing lunar missions (just flyby) by then. Personally, I think this date is most likely going to slip for man-rating but it's not unreasonable to assume Starship will be capable of delivering Starlink satellites to orbit in 2024.

So, in summary, No. It is almost impossible that SpaceX will be performing any Mars missions (outside of Falcon Heavy) by or in 2024.

The bigger problem, or something that's not addressed as much, is that SpaceX does not want to go to Mars, SpaceX wants to bring people and things to Mars. Elon has stated many times that he seeks to "democratize access to space" or "lower the barrier to entry" and that he wants SpaceX to be a transport company. SpaceX (as of 2020) has no plans for developing habitats, training astronauts, or building Mars buggies. In fact, they've stated repeatedly that the only thing they are planning on actually building for a Martian settlement or mission is the ISRU platform for manufacturing Starship fuel.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 a fair evaluation $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ Do you think money from Starlink could improve some of these timelines? I'm sure there are raw material constraints (especially around all that fancy steel), but money does solve lots of issues over time...and they should have a fair amount of it from Starlink. 2024 is very close, so I think its impossible regardless. $\endgroup$
    – Stickyz
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Stickyz I think that if Starlink is successful, it will definitely improve timelines in the long term but I don't think that Starlink will start raking in billions in under four years. Additionally, I don't get the impression that SpaceX is lacking money at the moment. Even if they were suddenly given an infinite amount, there's only so fast you can accelerate engineering (and SpaceX is already running laps around the rest of the industry). Elon very recently stated that the Starship team is 300 employees right now and they're planning on expanding to 3000 by the end of the year. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I'd call Falcon Heavy's capacity a "very small amount of cargo". SpaceX says it can send 16,800 kg to Mars; it's not clear if that's Mars flyby, Mars orbit, or Mars surface, but in any case, it's somewhat more than one fully-loaded Lunar Module. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ Remember that a big part of what they need to do to start regular Mars operations is verify that they can reach and land on Mars. The first Starships to Mars are likely to be modified early versions. By 2024, they should have a few early-build Starships looking at retirement, and I would be surprised if they don't at least stuff one of those full of solar panels or some other low-intrinsic-value payload that'll be useful on Mars and send it off. They don't need a Starship that can deliver passengers for this, or for the subsequent cargo-only precursor flights delivering the ISRU equipment. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 13:51

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