Elon Musk has been talking about creating a colony on Mars for a while now, but lately he's offering up a new number: 80,000. At first, this was taken to mean that the goal was to install up to that many Martians. No, Musk, clarifies: he wants 80,000 colonists moving to Mars per year.
Elon Musk took to Twitter on Tuesday to set the record straight:
He followed that tweet with another: "And, yes, I do in fact know that this sounds crazy. That is not lost on me. Nor I do think SpaceX will do this alone."
So, to recap, Musk envisions a day where tickets to Mars are cheap enough that "most people in advanced countries" could feasibly save up enough for the trip. In his head, right now, that number is $500,000. That sounds high even for the shrewdest moisture farmer, but this also won't happen for at least another 12 to 15 years, by which point we'll probably be using mummified Twinkies as currency anyway.
During a talk Musk gave at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on November 16 (video below), he reiterated his intent to advance an effort to push for a manned presence on Mars. Musk has repeatedly mentioned his wish to live his last days there. It's a tall order, but not one Musk shirks from, stressing reusable rockets as well as being able to source propellant locally on Mars — right now, that'd mean using methane to power staged-combustion engines.
Perhaps most important, however, is Musk insisting that he's prepared to carry on with or without government support, which wouldn't have been possible before the rise of private spaceflight:
"I would hope that the first human mission to Mars is actually some collaboration between private industry and government, but I think we also need to be prepared for the possibility that it has to be just commercial. So, that may take longer because it'd require marshaling resources — you know, you'd have to get the money together to do it — but I want to prepare for a scenario where either path is possible. Basically, it needs to happen one way or another. That's the important thing. I'm not dogmatic as to how it occurs, just that it occurs."
You can hear Elon Musk's full comments in the video below. He gets into Mars a bit in the beginning, but it isn't until about 23 minutes in after the first questions roll in that Musk talks specifics.