Elon Musk envisages creating colony of 80,000 humans on Mars

26 Nov 2012

Artist's depiction of the SpaceX Dragon capsule landing on Mars. Credit: SpaceX

Could humans one day count Mars as a possible planetary abode? Elon Musk seems to think so. The PayPal co-founder and CEO of the private spaceflight company SpaceX has detailed his future plans to transport people to the Red Planet at around US$500,000 per passenger, creating a colony of around 80,000 people.

Musk detailed his vision at a recent talk on the future of space exploration that he gave at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

NASA has awarded SpaceX a US$1.6bn contract to carry out 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to re-supply the International Space Station (ISS).

The company achieved its first unmanned docking of the Dragon capsule at the ISS on 25 May 2012. Then, in October, SpaceX successfully launched the rocket and spacecraft on its first cargo mission to the ISS.

As for his plans for Mars, Space.com has detailed Musk’s vision, which would start out by carrying a group of less than 10 people who would travel to the planet in a reusable rocket fuelled by methane and liquid oxygen.

His ultimate goal, however, is to see a colony of about 80,000 people on the Red Planet. And how would SpaceX come into the equation? Musk reckons that it would cost around US$500,000 to ferry each passenger.

In his talk at the Royal Aeronautical Society, Musk spoke about the possibility of creating a “self-sustaining civilisation” on Mars.

He also spoke about why he picked the US$500,000 price tag for flights to Mars.

“The ticket price needs to be low enough that most people in advanced countries, in their mid-forties or something like that, could put together enough money to make the trip,” he said, as reported on Space.com.

Musk also said that the rocket to take people to Mars would not be the Falcon 9 one that SpaceX currently launches the Dragon spacecraft.

He said that the rocket would be much bigger than the Falcon 9 one and that both the rocket and spacecraft would need to be reusable in order to keep the price at US$500,000 per passenger per flight.

To hear Musk’s lecture in full at the Royal Aeronautical Society, check out this YouTube video.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic