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.
Space.com contributor Rob Coppinger has many more details about Musk’s plans, so I’ll simply refer you to his excellent reporting if you want to know more.
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.”
Image Credit: SpaceX