Friday, December 23, 2011

Elon Musk says he will put millions of people on Mars

Next Big Future

  • Musk doesn't just want to stop at one human. In his Heinlein prize acceptance speech, he said he wants to put 10,000 people on Mars.
  • Ultimately we don't really want 10,000 people on Mars," he says, after letting the pause linger a few seconds more. "We want millions."
  • In September Musk announced the company's plans for developing a fully reusable space launch system. 
  • Musk says that a reusable version of the rocket could deliver a payload of up to 15 tonnes to Mars at a cost of $100 to $200 per kilogram.
  • The price tag for a Mars mission varies as widely as the concepts for achieving it, from $20 billion to $500 billion
  • Would he consider going on that first trip? "If someone had solved the rapidly reusable launch system problem, then yes, I'd definitely go," he says. "But if it were simply a one-time flight, then no, because I'd need to stay and keep at the challenge with SpaceX.
Wernher von Braun's Mars Expedition (1952)
Das Marsprojekt was the first technically comprehensive design for a manned expedition to Mars. Von Braun envisioned not a simple preliminary voyage to Mars, but an enormous scientific expedition modeled on the Antarctic model.


Musk believes that the window of opportunity to do this could close.  If it closes, the opportunity may not come again.  That should be a chilling thought, but there's all to many who don't seem to mind.  I guess if it doesn't affect someone personally, it doesn't matter to that person.  It's going to take someone like Musk to do this if it ever gets done.

Von Braun wanted to do it, but the cost was deemed to be too high.  Musk has gotten the price down, but there may still be too much resistance to the idea for the government to finance it.  That could mean further efforts must be undertaken in order to make it even more cost effective.

In addition to this, an economic rationale for doing it may be enough to push it over the finish line.  An economic rationale could be tourism and resource extraction.   Resource extraction can supply the basis for colonization, while colonization can encourage tourism.  A couple of side benefits would be science and planet defense.  If enough needs could be identified as being met by this endeavor, a case could be made for some government financing to support it.  The potential for profit could supply the rest.

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