A SpaceX concept video shows a Dragon shuttle landing on the surface of Mars.
(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has revealed a plan to set up an 80,000-strong human colony on Mars.
For just US$500,000 per head, anyone could join Elon Musk's mission to colonise the Red Planet. He revealed his plan to London's Royal Aeronautical Society on Friday, 16 November, saying that Mars was ripe for terraforming.
In his plan, a scouting team of less than 10 people would be first sent in a reusable rocket with equipment to set up the colony: machines for creating an atmosphere and fertilising the soil of Mars, as well as producing water, and, of course, construction materials. Once the colony was underway, Mars could be opened up as a destination, with Musk estimating around 80,000 people heading up.
In an interview with Wired magazine, Musk further detailed his plans:
I started with a crazy idea to spur the national will. I called it the Mars Oasis missions. The idea was to send a small greenhouse to the surface of Mars, packed with dehydrated nutrient gel that could be hydrated on landing. You'd wind up with this great photograph of green plants and red background — the first life on Mars, as far as we know, and the farthest that life's ever travelled. It would be a great money shot — plus, you'd get a lot of engineering data about what it takes to maintain a little greenhouse and keep plants alive on Mars. If I could afford it, I figured it would be a worthy expenditure of money, with no expectation of financial return.
According to Space.com, the estimated cost of the mission would be around US$36 billion.
Of course, Musk isn't the only person this year to propose Mars colonisation: in August, a Dutch company proposed Mars One, a manned mission that would become a televised reality show.
Neither proposal mentioned if there would be an attempt to replicate Earth's gravity, since low-gravity conditions considerably weaken human skeletons, or what kind of protection would be offered against solar radiation. And are there even 80,000 people on Earth with US$500,000 to spare? At this point, we can probably make the assumption that it's just a castle in the sky.