Can you imagine being able to travel halfway around the world in less than an hour? Leave your destination at 12:00pm and arrive 40 minutes later in a timezone where it is 1:00am?
It sounds like science fiction, jumping around the planet on a whim, disregarding the vast distances between continents. But this supposed fantasy might not be so, and could become a reality within the next few decades.
Elon Musk, the head of SpaceX, has revealed an ambitious plan to create an intercontinental transport system which would see people being able to travel to anywhere on Earth in under an hour using a huge rocket.
The plan was revealed in a video shown during a presentation at the annual International Astronomical Congress. The rocket that SpaceX is currently designing and building with the aim of taking humans to Mars would also be used to launch people from one city on Earth to another. It would launch off, go up into space, and then descend back to Earth and land using only its engines.
The stated aim is for this to be as affordable as current international full-fare economy flights. You wouldn’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars if you wanted to travel from Melbourne to London and not have to endure the 23 hour travel time by plane.
The rocket would be entirely reusable. SpaceX has developed the technology to reuse its main booster rocket, which I talked about in my first blog post.
The intended aim is to expand this reusability to the entire rocket, meaning the only expendable part is the fuel.
The rocket fuel that SpaceX uses, methane and liquid oxygen, is plentiful and cheap, meaning they would not need to charge exorbitant amounts to ferry people and supplies across the planet. A profit could still be made, which would be used towards their Mars goals.
By having the rocket go up into space, there would be no atmosphere, which means no turbulence, and the rocket could reach speeds of 27,000 km/h with no stress or strain on the rocket or the passengers.
Of course, looking at the bigger picture, you would not likely be able to travel from one place to another in under an hour if you include going through the various border controls and customs barriers that would inevitably need to be set up for this new kind of intercontinental travel.
The video above showed a ferry sailing out to a launch pad off the coast of New York City, it makes me wonder if that ferry ride would be longer than the trip to Shanghai itself.
Still, this kind of thing is immensely exciting to me, it’s hard to believe that things like this are being seriously considered and that it’s all real, as opposed to vague predictions that things like this might happen in the future.
These are the kinds of technological advances that people from decades ago thought the 21st century would have.
My dream is to go into space one day. If this project becomes a reality I believe that dream would be fulfilled, even if I am only in space for a few minutes.