Billionaire businessman Elon Musk announced this week his plans to start a city … on Mars! In your lifetime!
Considering we’ve never sent a human to Mars — or any other planet before for that matter — it seems a bit ambitious.
Mr. Musk wants us to be an “interplanetary” species.
He’s the first to admit that Mars is a bit of a “fixer-upper” (there’s no air, for starters).
And then there’s the cost — many more billions of dollars more than he personally has.
And while any one of those would seem like an insurmountable hurdle (did we mention there’s no air on Mars?), many space experts responded to the news saying that if anyone could pull this off, it’s Elon Musk. Though others have called the plan “possible but not probable.”
Mr. Musk is considered a visionary. He’s also the head of SpaceX, the private company about to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (after NASA shut down its space shuttle program). It’s also had some success with developing a reusable rocket (a really big deal because sending these things into space to use just once is incredibly expensive). So he’s been making practical progress on his vision.
Why do this?
Partly because it’s in our human nature to explore.
Partly because the science is really cool and it’s never been done before.
And partly because Mr. Musk is hoping to increase the chances of the human species surviving if there was ever a catastrophe on Earth (asteroid impact, for example). As Stanford University Professor Scott Hubbard pointed out on Bloomberg Technology , the dinosaurs would have benefited from a space program like this. 🙂
How would he do it?
First, even if your spacecraft were ready to go, you couldn’t do it any old time. The way the planets orbit, you’d want to wait until Mars and Earth get close together — about every two years. During those times, SpaceX would, in theory, send many spacecraft into orbit, refuel, and wait there until the time was right. Then they’d travel together. Here’s how SpaceX envisions it:
To get a million people to Mars this way would take 10,000 flights. And it’s not cheap, about half a million dollars a ticket, but the price, in theory, would drop eventually to about $100,000.
His hope is to get the first launch up by 2024 (less than 10 years!). But Mr. Musk added, “It would take 40 years to a century before the city on Mars became self-sufficient.”
P.S. It’s super dangerous!
How would they colonize it? Make it work for humans? Live there over an extended period? The details are fuzzy. Really fuzzy . But you have to start somewhere.
Interplanet Janet , here we come?