SpaceX gave a presentation earlier this week describing their plans to take people to Mars. It was a great presentation. It was about 2 hours in length, but this video gives a quick overview of the method.
A manned rocket and booster takes off from the launch pad. After the booster gets the rocket to space, the rocket remains in orbit and the booster returns back to the launch pad. The booster gets loaded with another rocket that is a fuel tank. This gets launched up to orbit and the fuel is transferred to the manned rocket. Once fuelled the manned rocket can then begin the trip to Mars. This same thing happens to several rockets at the same time. Many are manned rockets and many are cargo rockets carrying things needed for the new colony. Since there is only a small window for launch every 2 years, there will be a “fleet” or “armada” of rockets making the trip at the same time.
They plan to launch the first unmanned rockets in two years to start sending the materials needed for the manned trips that will probably not start until 2030. There may be 6-7 unmanned trips taking material to Mars before the manned trips begin. There needs to be quite a lot of materials on hand for the colonists before they arrive so they can start construction of the site.
He expects the trip to cost $200,000 per colonist.
Step by step guide: