Elon Musk outlines plan to make Mars colonization more affordable

 © SpaceX
Billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is working with his SpaceX program to make it possible for anybody who wants to resettle on Mars to do so. He wants humans to become “a multi-planetary species.”

“What I want to do here is to make Mars seem possible, to make it seem that is something we can do in our lifetime, and that you can go,” SpaceX CEO and lead designer Elon Musk told attendees of the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico on Tuesday. “Is there a way for anyone to go if they wanted to?”

Musk said he think humans have two paths: staying on Earth with an eventual extinction event, and “the alternative is to become a spacefaring civilization and a multi-planet species,” said Musk to a hesitant but eventually loud applause from the audience.

“How do we figure out how to take you to Mars to create a self-sustaining city?” Musk asked. “A city that is not an outpost but that can become a planet in its own right and thus we can become a truly multi-planet species?”

He said that, of all the nearby planets, Mars and the moon are the most suitable. Mars has a gravitational pull that is 37 percent that of Earth, which would make lifting heavy things easier. The day is remarkably close to ours and there is ice water.

“Right now you can’t go to Mars for infinite money,” said Musk. “An optimistic costs number would be $10 billion dollars per person. With the Apollo program, which costs between $100 billion to $200 billion, current year dollars, we sent 12 people to the surface of the moon, which was an incredible thing and the greatest achievements of humanity.”

A self-sustaining system can’t be built if the ticket price is $10 billion per person, Musk said, but if the cost of moving to Mars was equivalent to the median house price in the US, which is around $200,000 then “the probability of creating a self-sustaining city on Mars is very high.”

To do that the cost of getting to Mars must be improved by 5 million percent, “which is not easy.” It would require “full reusability, refueling in orbit, propellant production on Mars, and choosing the right propellant.”

“Whatever system is designed by SpaceX or anyone, these are four features that need to be addressed,” said Musk.

Trips to Mars could occur every two years, with spaceships that could be returned to Earth powered by methane mined on Mars, and rockets refueling in orbit from rocket boosters, Musk said.

A million people would be required to start a colony on Mars.

“If you have 100 [people] per ship, that’s 10,00 trips but 200 per flight would reduce the cost per person,” said Musk.

It would take 20-50 trips to Mars, and 40-100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization. Initially it would take 80 days to get to the red planet, but travel time could be brought down to 30 days.

Musk said it would be a challenge to fund the endeavor and some funds can come from servicing the space station and launching satellites and government and private investment.

“As we show this possible, this dream is real, the support will snowball over time, the reason I am accumulating assets is to fund this,” said Musk. “The biggest contribution I can make is to making life multi-planetary!”