Elon Musk wants to bring you and 79,999 of your closest friends to colonize a nice little spread on Mars. The SpaceX founder and CEO revealed his ambitious plans to the Royal Aeronautical Society earlier this month, revealing each trip would cost $500,000 and would rely on a reusable rocket similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster.
Here’s the most ideal situation, barring actual willing volunteers, guaranteed safety and equipment to actually fly to Mars, that is: SpaceX would shuttle a small group of people — say, 10 or so — who would act as the “founders” of the new Mars colony. Enough equipment and machines will be onboard so the founders can adequately produce enough fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars’ atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide. After that, the situation would be assessed from there.
What’s the contingency plan should something go wrong? Is someone stuck there if they’re not feeling Mars? Will there be homework? Internet?
The Red Planet pioneers would also take construction materials to build transparent domes, which when pressurized with Mars’ atmospheric CO2 could grow Earth crops in Martian soil. As the Mars colony became more self sufficient, the big rocket would start to transport more people and fewer supplies and equipment.
Musk’s early ambitions are to establish the basics on Mars, a proper foundation that’s sustainable for large groups of humans, and move forward. It really sounds like pure fantasy — who would actually want to live in a place as barren and lonely as Mars? — but Musk seems to believe it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
The entire project is estimated to cost around $36 billion, which I’d be surprised if SpaceX didn’t surpass. Musk and his team are already working on a prototype rocket, dubbed Grasshopper, which is expected to be functional by 2018. So you better start prepping for your journey now, because it’s not like you can call back to Earth and get picked up any old time you want.