Elon Musk drops details for SpaceX Mars mega-colony

SpaceX CEO wants to put a million people on the Red Planet by 2050.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This futuristic render shows a collection of Starships hanging out on the surface of Mars. Elon Musk and SpaceX envision astronauts initially living out of the spaceships while constructing a more permanent human settlement on the Red Planet.


The first SpaceX Starship orbital prototypes aren't even built yet, but Elon Musk already has big plans for his company's spacecraft, which includes turning humans into an interplanetary species with a presence on Mars. He crunched some of the numbers he has in mind on Twitter on Thursday.

Musk doesn't just want to launch a few intrepid souls to Mars, he wants to send a whole new nation. He tossed out a goal of building 100 Starships per year to send about 100,000 people from Earth to Mars every time the planets' orbits line up favorably.

A Twitter user ran the figures and checked if Musk planned to land a million humans on Mars by 2050. "Yes," Musk replied. The SpaceX CEO has suggested this sort of Mars population number before. This new round of tweets give us some more insight into how it could be done, though "ambitious" doesn't do that timeline justice. Miraculous might be a more fitting description.

The distance between Earth and Mars gets reasonably close roughly every 26 months. Musk's vision involves loading 1,000 Starships into orbit and then sending them off over the course of a month around prime time for a minimal commute. Travelers would still be looking at spending months on board before reaching the Red Planet.

Expanse fans, rejoice. Musk said there will be plenty of jobs on Mars. When asked how people would be selected for the Red Planet move, Musk tweeted, "Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don't have money." So perhaps you could pay off your SpaceX loans with a sweet terraforming gig. 

In the meantime, Musk is stockpiling money for a reason. "Helping to pay for this is why I'm accumulating assets on Earth," he tweeted. His anticipated Tesla pay package should give him a nice boost.

SpaceX has a long way to go to make these concepts real. The company is currently building Starships designed to reach Earth orbit after a series of successful "hopper" prototype tests. The reusable spacecraft could have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years, enabling them to make round-trip journeys between the planets.

While no one is sure exactly what the future holds for SpaceX, Starship, humanity and Mars, it's definitely fun to speculate. 

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