Guadalajara, Mexico — Elon Musk – international entrepreneur, investor, engineer, and inventor – wants humans to travel to Mars.
But he won’t be along for the ride.
As the speaker giving the keynote address at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara on September 27, 2016, Musk outlined the space exploration and colonization plans of his company, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. Better known as SpaceX, the firm is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California.
Born in South Africa in 1971, Musk attended the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania where he received dual degrees in physics and economics, the latter from the prestigious Wharton School of Business. He did work toward a Ph.D. in physics at Stanford University, but left to be an entrepreneur, eventually becoming CEO and largest shareholder at PayPal, which he sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.
He used part of that wealth to establish SpaceX, for which his initial intention was to send food crops to Mars. That idea was eventually transformed into the goal of sending humans.
In his keynote address at the Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Musk affirmed his plan to make a “ticket to Mars” on what he has called his “Mars Colonial Transporter” or “Interplanetary Transport System” within financial reach for many people. He says that although the first tickets might be $500,000, he hopes ultimately to bring the price down to the median house cost in the U.S., about $200,000.
He hopes the first passengers will be on their way to Mars in 2024, with additional trips about every two years when Mars and Earth are closest to each other.
Musk estimates that his first interplanetary spacecraft will cost his company about $10 billion. Currently his company is financing the development costs mostly on its own at a few tens of millions of dollars a year. SpaceX does business with NASA, with which it has contracts to ferry cargo to and from the International Space Station. The United States Air Force has provided $33.6 million toward development of the robust Raptor engines that will power the Mars-bound spacecraft. Musk says he eventually hopes to gain additional outside funding in a public-private partnership of some sort.
Musk claims each Mars-bound SpaceX vehicle will transport 100 passengers plus the required equipment and supplies. Additional flights will carry more people, equipment, and supplies, so that eventually a self-sustaining Mars civilization of a million people will be established.
The entrepreneur’s overarching goal in achieving space colonization is simple but lofty: He wants to save humanity. “There are two fundamental paths” for humans, he says.
“One path is we stay on Earth forever, and some eventual extinction event wipes us out.”
The other, he suggests, is that we colonize another planet – in this case, a red one.
However, when asked if he wants to be on one of the first Mars-bound flights, Musk said, “I don’t think so.” He cautioned,
“The likelihood of death is very high,” and he admitted, “I’d like to see my kids grow up”.