SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently unveiled revised plans to the Moon and Mars at space industry conference. He ended his talk with a pretty incredible promise: using that same interplanetary rocket system for long-distance travel on Earth. Musk showed a demonstration of the idea on stage (which can be seen in the video below), claiming that it will allow passengers to take "most long distance trips" in just 30 minutes, and go "anywhere on Earth in under an hour" for around the same price of an economy airline ticket!
Musk proposed using SpaceX's forthcoming mega-rocket – codename "Big Fucking Rocket" or BFR for short – to lift massive spaceship into orbit around the Earth. The spaceship will then settle down on floating landing pads near major cities. Both the new rocket and spaceship are currently just a concept, though Musk did say that he hopes to begin construction on the rocket in the next six to nine months.
The video below illustrates SpaceX's idea, passengers take a large boat from a dock in New York City to a floating launchpad out in the water. There they board the same rocket that Musk wants to use to send humans to Mars bu 2024. Instead of heading off to another planet, once they leave the Earth's atmosphere, the ship separate and breaks off towards another city - Shanghai.
Just 39 minutes and some 7,000 miles later, the ship re-enters the atmosphere and touches down on another floating pad, much like the way SpaceX lands it's Falcon 9 rockets at sea. Other routes proposed in the video include Hong Kong to Singapore in 22 minutes, London to Dubai or New York in 29 minutes, and Los Angeles to Toronto in 24 minutes.
This proposed method of Earth city to Earth city travel would be, by far, the fastest ever created by humanity.
We also don’t know what the passenger experience would be like, and that’s an important factor in an idea like this. The thought of blasting off on a rocket to space is exciting, as is the potential for adding moments of weightlessness to your trip to London or wherever. But will people actually be willing to put their bodies through these kinds of extreme stresses for the sake of shaving a few hours off their trip?
To its credit, SpaceX has gotten really good at landing the Falcon 9 rockets both on land and at sea, and Musk even began his speech by touting how 16 of them have landed successfully in a row. We will have to wait and see what is going to happen with this proposed idea, in the meantime have a look at the video below to see the concept in action!