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SpaceX co-hosts secretive Mars conference

Reps from Elon Musk's rocket company, NASA and academia are reportedly gathering in Colorado to discuss getting situated on the Red Planet.

This SpaceX Mars concept art shows a future civilization.

A high-level discussion on moving to Mars is happening this week at high altitude -- and behind closed doors. 

SpaceX is partnering with the University of Colorado - Boulder to host "a discussion of Mars surface exploration technologies" with invited representatives from "from across academia, government and industry," according to an emailed statement from Bobby Braun, Dean of CU Boulder's School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Ars Technica reported on Monday that participants are being asked not to publicize the workshop or their attendance.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

It's not particularly unusual for industry representatives from companies like SpaceX to get together with folks from NASA, universities and elsewhere to talk about some of the challenges of exploring places like Mars. SpaceX reps spoke on panels at NASA's Humans to Mars summit in May

In February, SpaceX lead Mars development engineer Paul Wooster, who is reportedly a co-host of this week's meeting, gave a presentation to a NASA-chartered Mars exploration group about the company's ongoing plans, including its search for potential landing sites on Mars.

It could be seen as a little odd that organizers reportedly want to keep their meeting in Boulder quiet, given that government agencies and most universities studying Mars are publicly funded. But private industry is also participating in the meeting, so it's possible there will be discussions that are somewhat proprietary and therefore secretive in nature.

Or perhaps the hope is to avoid the significant spotlight of attention that follows Musk's projects around. 

For the past two years, SpaceX and Elon Musk have used the International Astronautical Congress as a venue to promote their vision for transporting humans, lots of humans, to Mars. Perhaps they're now transitioning from making the pitch for Mars in such a public forum to working out the details behind closed doors. 

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