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Elon Musk says Mars is for explorers who will 'probably die'

The SpaceX founder says trips to the red planet aren't just an "escape hatch for rich people."

Elon Musk warned that Mars travel will be dangerous.
Video screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Future Mars explorers, get those life insurance policies in place. SpaceX founder Elon Musk bluntly pointed out the dangers of traveling to the red planet, and he did not paint a rosy picture.

Musk was speaking on a livestream with Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation, about the group's $100 million prize for innovators who can develop gigaton-scale carbon removal to help avoid the worst effects of climate change. The four-year competition began on Earth Day, and Musk and his Musk Foundation fund it.

About 12 minutes in to the discussion, a barefoot Musk dismissed the idea that Mars explorations are just an "escape hatch for rich people."

Instead, he cites history. 

"Going to Mars reads like that ad for Shackleton going to the Antarctic," Musk said during the livestream last week. "You know, it's dangerous, it's uncomfortable, it's a long journey, you might not, you know, come back alive. But it's a glorious adventure, and it'll be an amazing experience."

He went on to paint a grim, but challenging, picture of Mars exploring.

"If an arduous and dangerous journey where you may not come back alive, but it's a glorious adventure, sounds appealing, Mars is the place," he said. "That's the ad. That's the ad for Mars. Honestly, a bunch of people probably will die in the beginning. It's tough sledding over there. We're not going to make anyone go. It's volunteers only."

Musk himself will be making a  presumably less dangerous journey on May 8, when he hosts Saturday Night Live, with musical guest Miley Cyrus.