That is correct, our very own Elon Musk is staying true to his word about doing things on Mars. Except he’s changed his tune slightly – he no longer just wants to send one person all the way there.
Starting with a 10-person crew in the coming decades, SpaceX’s billionaire founder and CEO has decided that instead of just putting a person on Mars, with the ambition of offering flights there too, that he’d rather build a colony. Of 80 000 people.
Speaking to Space.com, Musk said:
Once there are regular Mars flights, you can get the cost down to half a million dollars for someone to move to Mars. Then I think there are enough people who would buy that to have it be a reasonable business case.
He let the initiative slip while talking at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London earlier this month.
Musk, who recently surely missed out on a position on the list of Fortune Magazine’s “Businessperson of the Year”, still has many challenges before this dream can become a reality, as Wired points out, including, “figuring out exactly how to deal with radiation on the way to Mars, how to land humans on the planet’s surface, and how to keep them alive once there.
Wired Magazine Editor Chris Anderson interviewed Musk in the November issue, where he outlines a few ways that may pave the way to alleviating these niggles:
Chris Anderson: How were you drawn to space as your next venture?
Elon Musk: In 2002, once it became clear that PayPal was going to get sold, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, the entrepreneur Adeo Ressi, who was actually my college housemate. I’d been staying at his home for the weekend, and we were coming back on a rainy day, stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway. He was asking me what I would do after PayPal. And I said, well, I’d always been really interested in space, but I didn’t think there was anything I could do as an individual. But, I went on, it seemed clear that we would send people to Mars. Suddenly I began to wonder why it hadn’t happened already. Later I went to the NASA website so I could see the schedule of when we’re supposed to go. [Laughs.]
Anderson: And of course there was nothing.
Musk: At first I thought, jeez, maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place! Why was there no plan, no schedule? There was nothing. It seemed crazy.
Anderson: NASA doesn’t have the budget for that anymore.
Musk: Since 1989, when a study estimated that a manned mission would cost $500 billion, the subject has been toxic. Politicians didn’t want a high-priced federal program like that to be used as a political weapon against them.
Anderson: Their opponents would call it a boondoggle.
Musk: But the United States is a nation of explorers. America is the spirit of human exploration distilled.
Anderson: We all leaped into the unknown to get here.
Musk: So I started with a crazy idea to spur the national will. I called it the Mars Oasis missions. The idea was to send a small greenhouse to the surface of Mars, packed with dehydrated nutrient gel that could be hydrated on landing. You’d wind up with this great photograph of green plants and red background—the first life on Mars, as far as we know, and the farthest that life’s ever traveled. It would be a great money shot, plus you’d get a lot of engineering data about what it takes to maintain a little greenhouse and keep plants alive on Mars. If I could afford it, I figured it would be a worthy expenditure of money, with no expectation of financial return.
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