Saturday 18 November 2017

Elon Musk unveils plan to build a colony on Mars 'in our lifetime'

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors / AFP / NTB Scanpix / Heiko JUNGE / Norway
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors / AFP / NTB Scanpix / Heiko JUNGE / Norway

Cara McGoogan

Billionaire founder of Tesla and SpaceX Elon Musk has unveiled a plan to colonise Mars and make humans a “multiplanetary species”.

The South African-born entrepreneur said he hopes to create a “self-sustaining city” on the Red Planet that would be populated with reusable rockets. He said the price of a ticket would be less than £200,000 (€232,386) per person.

“If we can get the cost of moving to Mars to be the same price as a median-priced house in the US of about $250,000 then I think the probability of establishing a civilization would be relatively high,” said Mr Musk.

Mr Musk unveiled the scheme to build an extraterrestrial settlement on Mars “in our lifetimes”, which he previously acknowledged was “going to sound pretty crazy”, at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico.

Elon Musk.PNG

The Tesla-boss has long held space exploration ambitions and in 2002 he founded SpaceX, a private company tasked with innovating space travel and commercial opportunities.

The project has come under scrutiny after a string of failures from SpaceX’s rockets, including most recently an explosion on takeoff that destroyed a Facebook satellite estimated to be worth more than £150 million.

Mr Musk isn’t the only person with a plan to get to Mars. US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said that one of her aims if elected will be to “to advance our ability to make human exploration of Mars a reality”. Nasa also has a “Journey to Mars” program, which plans to send humans to the planet by the 2030s.

The SpaceX rocket revealed by Mr Musk could transport 100 people at a time and would take 26 months to reach Mars. He admitted it would take more than 1,000 rockets to create the Martian city.

EWlon Musk 2.PNG

The company has already begun testing the Falcon 9 rocket booster, which would propel the methane-powered carbon-fibre rocket into orbit. The booster would then return to Earth and collect more fuel before replenishing the orbiting spaceship for its journey to Mars.

Mr Musk said it would be a “challenge to fund this endeavour”, but SpaceX plans to have the first spaceship development and tested in suborbital flights by 2020. It will also send unmanned Dragon spaceships to Mars within two years.

“It’s a huge amount of risk, it’s going to cost a lot, there’s a good chance we won’t succeed but we’re going to do our best,” said Mr Musk.

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