Wednesday, November 28, 2012
On November 16, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave a talk before the Royal Aeronautical Society. And at that talk, he announced what his eventual goal is for SpaceX: a Martian colony with over 80,000 people.
“At Mars, you can start a self-sustaining civilization and grow it into something really big,” he reportedly told the crowd.
The colony would start with just a small group of people, armed with supplies including materials to build a transparent dome, which could be pressurized so that Martian pioneers could farm on Martian soil. (Thankfully, radiation isn’t a worry, as Mars’ atmosphere was recently revealed by NASA to shield radiation to the point where humans can survive on the surface.
Suffice to say, however, a trip to Mars is still many years away, but Musk thinks that the colony – which he views as a joint venture between the private sector and the government – would cost about $36 billion to get going. Musk strongly desires to get the costs to go to Mars down to the point where a person could buy a ticket for $500,000.
Right now, though, there’s still a technological development left to do. While SpaceX has successfully made two trips to the International Space Station with its Dragon capsule, the company still hasn’t sent a human being into space. And the rocket that would go to Mars is still at least a technological generation away.
Still, I’ve absolutely no doubt that Musk is sincere in his desire to get to Mars, even if he doesn’t get much of a return on his investment. As he told me earlier this year when I interviewed him, “This is not the path to go to maximize riches. It’s a terrible risk adjusted return. But it’s gotta happen. I think that for me and a lot of people, America is a nation of explorers. I’d like to see that we’re expanding the frontier and moving things forward. Space is the final frontier and we have to make progress.”