Well, this has been Elon Musk Week. The SpaceX/Tesla/Solar City/Real-life Tony Stark/Mogul Guy has been busy perfecting his American accent, appearing on The Colbert Report, and rallying opposition against a House NASA funding bill that doesn’t gives rocket companies like his own enough money to build their commercial rockets.
That’s a lot, right? Yes, but it’s not enough. There’s much more…
The Guardian has a lengthy profile of Musk in its Sunday edition. There’s not much new in there about the South African entrepreneur, his wide-ranging business interests, or his very public divorce. However, he does have some interesting things to say about Mars:
The fresh-faced 39-year-old man, in a dark T-shirt and jeans, is talking about travelling to Mars. Not now, but when he’s older and ready to swap life on Earth for one on the red planet. “It would be a good place to retire,” he says in all seriousness. Normally, this would be the time to make one’s excuses and leave the company of a lunatic. Or to smile politely and humour a space nerd’s unlikely fantasies. But this man needs to be taken seriously for one compelling reason: he already has his own spaceship….
And through it all is the desire to colonise Mars. Musk insists that his most powerful Falcon 9 rockets could already launch missions to Mars if assembled in Earth’s orbit. He wants SpaceX to help humanity spread into space, just like the first European explorers setting out for the New World. “One of the long-term goals of SpaceX is, ultimately, to get the price of transporting people and product to Mars to be low enough and with a high enough reliability that if somebody wanted to sell all their belongings and move to a new planet and forge a new civilisation they could do so.”
Musk’s belief that this can be achieved in two decades is something that most experts would scoff at but Musk, characteristically, finds it frustratingly slow. “Twenty years seems like semi-infinity to me. That’s a long time,” he says, as if surprised that anyone could doubt his aims. It is certainly tempting to dismiss it as a flight of fancy. Except, behind him on SpaceX’s factory floor, Musk’s nascent fleet of working space rockets are already being built.
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