Few innovators have proven more influential to 21st-century technology — in particular, travel and transportation technology — than Elon Musk. Every time the South African-born pioneer opens his mouth, it’s to reveal some revolutionary tech that will take us farther, faster, and better (remember the Hyperloop One?). His latest announcement at this year’s International Astronautical Congress in Australia was no different.
The main thrust (pun intended) of the speech was to clarify his revised plan for a manned mission to Mars in 2024 via SpaceX’s reusable rocket technology. But the most exciting news, or the one that matters to us right now, is that his company will make use of this same technology to redefine the future of commercial air travel. He bottom-lined it with a bold promise: future air passengers will soon be able to travel “anywhere on Earth in under an hour” with “most long-distance trips” doable in just 30 minutes via what he’s code-named the BFR (which stands for “Big Falcon Rocke” or “Big F***ing Rocket” — take your pick). The best part? Musk promises this will all be available for roughly the same price as an international economy class airline ticket.
The promotional video above, which accompanied his talk, helped to drive the point home. The video depicts passengers boarding a shuttle ferry in Manhattan, bound for a floating launchpad just offshore. A board nearby reveals the Shanghai-bound SpaceX rocket has an expected travel time of just 39 minutes. The flight launches into orbit, topping out at 16,800 mph., and lands safely in Shanghai on a similar launchpad. For reference, Musk noted other flight times including London to Dubai in 29 minutes, and Toronto to Los Angeles in 24 minutes. Each BFR flight is expected to ferry about 100 passengers divided among 40 cabins.
Of course, the proof is in the aeronautical pudding. For the moment, all this technology is merely theoretical. There are still some seriously tough questions yet to be answered. The most obvious: How will “average humans” (read: non-astronauts) cope with traveling at speeds of more than 16,000 mph.? Whatever the answer, Musk has a way of turning the impossible into reality, and he announced construction on the project would begin within nine months.
Feature image courtesy of SpaceX/YouTube.