Elon Musk wants to connect Mars to the internet

19 Jan 2015

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Elon Musk wants to bring the internet to space, and the Tesla Motors CEO is planning to do so by filling the skies with micro satellites he hopes one day will be used connect people on Mars to the web.

Last November, Musk confirmed his space transport services company, SpaceX, is planning to launch 700 internet-beaming micro satellites that will transmit broadband signals to some of the most remote places on the planet, providing populations with affordable internet access.

Now, in a new interview with Bloomberg, the 43-year-old entrepreneur – who's been dubbed a real life Tony Stark on more than one occasion – has expanded on those plans further.

“Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” he said.

Musk's vision is to build a more efficient system than currently in place. Rather than moving internet data packets around the world via dozens of routers and terrestrial networks, the packets would go to space and be transferred from satellite to satellite until they reach the one nearest their destination before returning to earth.

"The speed of light is 40 percent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber," said Musk. "The long-term potential is to be the primary means of long-distance Internet traffic and to serve people in sparsely populated areas."

Mission to Mars

Musk's personal goal has long-been the enabling of human exploration and settlement on Mars, and he believes the new system could be used to provide internet connectivity as far away as The Red Planet.

“It will be important for Mars to have a global communications network as well,” he said. “I think this needs to be done, and I don’t see anyone else doing it.”

Musk recently added his name to an open letter signed by hundreds of scientists, academics and entrepreneurs, promising artificial intelligence (AI) won’t end humanity, as the Terminator movie series so viscerally depicted. Musk has been concerned about the development of AI, warning a crowd at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AeroAstro Centennial Symposium in October that it could be "our biggest existential threat"

"I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence," said Musk.

"I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.

"With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon. You know those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and he’s like – yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out."

Dean is a freelance journalist and editor covering media.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com