During a set piece telephone conversation between White House Oval office and the the International Space Station in April, US President Trump told the astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer on board that he wanted a manned landing on Mars to take place during his “second term” in office.  This implies that such a landing would have to take place before 2025.  Most experts do not think this timeline is possible via an all NASA project which currently plans to make an attempt in the 2030s.

Musk’s Mars super-booster design has 42 Raptor engines on its first stage. Courtesy: SpaceX

This further implies that Elon Musk’s much more grandiose plan which has gained plaudits from observers – at least in its assumption over the size of rocket needed to undertake such a mission – will be funded by the US government.  According to the SpaceX plan Musk announced at the IAC Guadalajara, Mars landings by humans would take place in 2024.

Comment by David Todd: We have previously suggested that NASA should use its SLS rocket for human moon missions as it is undersized for Mars exploration, while funding Musk’s super-booster which can carry three times as much.