Bottom line: Elon Musk, in a recent interview with podcaster Lex Fridman, said that in a worst-case scenario, it will be roughly a decade before SpaceX can get a human to Mars. However, a key limiting factor today is money – it’s too expensive to send someone to the Red Planet right now.
About half an hour after the interview began, Fridman asked Musk when he thought SpaceX would take a human to the Red Planet. After more than 20 seconds to think about it, Musk said the best case would be around five years and the worst case would be closer to 10 years.
An important determining factor in bringing humans to Mars is the design of the vehicle that will take the astronauts there. “The spacecraft is the most complex and advanced rocket ever made,” Musk said. The SpaceX CEO added that the fundamental optimization of Starship minimizes the cost per ton in orbit and, ultimately, the cost per ton on the surface of Mars.
Right now, Musk said, money is the limiting factor. “You couldn’t fly to Mars for a trillion dollars. No amount of money could get you a ticket to Mars, “he said.
The serial entrepreneur has made it clear that he doesn’t just want to have “flags and footprints” on Mars and then not go back for half a century like we did with the Moon.
Musk said earlier this year on Twitter that SpaceX aims to land spacecraft on Mars long before 2030, adding that the hardest part will be building the first self-sufficient base. By 2050, Musk hopes to have a million people on Mars.
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