Man Will Be on Mars in 20 Years—for Less Than $5 Billion, Says Elon Musk

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 27 2011 3:33 PM

Man Will Be on Mars in 20 Years—for Less Than $5 Billion, Says Elon Musk

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WASHINGTON - APRIL 5: Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Elon Musk, the man who helped make Internet commerce possible for the everyman by creating PayPal, wants to bring space travel to the masses as well. And not that just putting a proverbial foot in space and then returning right away to Earth. Musk hopes his private space company SpaceX will bring millions to Mars. Says the New Scientist’s Greg Klerkx:

In his Heinlein prize acceptance speech, he said he wants to put 10,000 people on Mars. Musk rarely makes public statements merely for effect but a call for 10,000 would-be Martians is extraordinary, even by his standards. When I query him on this point, he pauses. Is he reconsidering? Yes... but, as with so much else about Musk, not in a predictable way. "Ultimately we don't really want 10,000 people on Mars," he says, after letting the pause linger a few seconds more. "We want millions."
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Musk estimates that SpaceX’s first mission to Mars will come in as soon as 10 years—and his more conservative estimate is just 20. And to carry out his plans, Musk tells Klerkx that he will require a positively frugal $2 billion to $5 billion.

A few weeks ago, Musk took his space case to the National Press Club, where he told an audience that he wants life to become interplanetary. Bringing life to new planets, Musk argues, is just a further step in human evolution.

Read more on the New Scientist (subscription required.)

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.