back to article Musk muses on middle-class Mars colony

SpaceX boss Elon Musk has said that later this year or in early 2013 he will announce a plan to offer flights to Mars and back for half a million dollars, hopefully within the next decade. In an interview with the BBC, Musk said that the final pieces of the plan had now been sorted out, and he was confident SpaceX could set up …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. brooxta


    This guy is a genius, a hero, a legend in his own lifetime, a giant of a man. Mars within a decade? Awesome!

    Now all I need to do is:

    1) write some open source software

    2) ????

    3) Profit!!

    4) Save.

    5) Buy the first ticket.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wow!

      In the next decade........ doubtful.....

      In the next 20 years possible.....

      In the next 50 more likely.....

      In the next 100 years......

      Wish I would be here to see it.

  2. Robert Heffernan


    Half a million for a Mars trip definitely makes the $20m for an ISS trip seem like an awful ripoff.

    I know for a fact that Elon/Space X will make this a reality and as great the work is laying the foundations of space exploration that the current incumbents in the space race (nasa, esa, roscosmos) have done, it's SpaceX that will really leave a footprint in the history of human space exploration and colonisation.

    Time to start saving my money I think!

    1. nichobe

      Re: Hmm

      economies of scale....

  3. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Hm, so when is he planning on sending the first 100? And please tell me he'll name the ship Ares, otherwise I'll cry.

    1. Daniel B.

      He'll probably call it BARSOON.

      1. Alister

        ...or maybe BarsooM would be more accurate

    2. Yag

      Any name would be fine...

      As long as it is not the overused and crappy "Enterprise"

      1. Yesnomaybe

        Re: Any name would be fine...


    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    <quote>The technologies involved haven't even been patented, he said, because this would put them out in the open and patents are basically unenforceable overseas.</quote>

    So industries that should be using patents are not, because they are unenforcable, and other industries that should not be using patents are, because they are a convienent sue-ball.

    Does anybody else thing the patent system needs to be overhauled?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Patents

      Apple have already patented a 'flying device with 4 rounded corners to carry people into mars orbit powered by a large battery'

      So that's it then, 1000 years of legal action before we go.

  5. Chris Holford


    Mr Musk seems wildly optimistic to me; I wonder if he thinks that Moore's Law applies to rocket launches?

    1. MacroRodent

      Re: Hmmm.....

      Not Moore's law, but doing something regularly should build up experience and equipment that reduces costs.

      About reuse, I'm guessing the main strategy here is to build a durable "bus" that would regularly cycle between Earth and Mars. This would have the engines, living quarters and radiation protection for the bulk of the travel time. Once you have launched this, it could be used for decades, thus amortizing the costs. I believe this is what Mr. Musk means with the 1/2 million figure. After all, even taking a train from Paris to Berlin would cost billions$ if the train and tracks would have to be build separately for each trip...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simplify the problem - make the first trip one way

    Test out the technology and get it done within 10 years.

    I'm sure there would be plenty of volunteers. I'd go.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Simplify the problem - make the first trip one way

      Me too. Give me the opportunity for a one way trip to Mars, and I'd jump on it. Even knowing that in all likelihood you would run out of supplies before the next ship arrived. I can not think of a more noble end than to expend one’s life assembling the components and doing the dangerous, risky preliminary work necessary to establish Earth’s first self-sustaining offworld colony.

      It is worth lives to ensure that this colony (and others like it) get born. If this man succeeds in pulling it off with the expenditure of mere money…

      …then he will prove to be the single most important individual of our era.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Simplify the problem - make the first trip one way

        Terminal patients while they're still healthy. Volunteers of all sorts would step forward. May even be able to manage using society rejects (life-sentences-type people not prone to going homicidal given the task...). If you don't think the latter would work, give it a shot. What's to lose besides the first trial shot?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Simplify the problem - make the first trip one way

          You've been watching space cowboys too many time, terminally ill people.... Ok

          1. Jonathon Green

            Re: Simplify the problem - make the first trip one way

            "You've been watching space cowboys too many time, terminally ill people.... Ok"

            [Shrug] One way or another we're all terminally ill and (at the age of fifty-something) an expensive one-way trip to Mars seems to me like a perfectly reasonable alternative to a few years of active, somewhat cash-strapped retirement followed by an even more expensive long decline in a nursing home...

            I wouldn't bet *my* money on $500,000 within 10 years. But considered as an aggressive target to drive the marketing and goad the techies with an unspoken willingness to settle for (say) a cost of a couple of million dollars within 30 years it's a perfectly plausible soundbite...

      2. figure 11

        Re: Simplify the problem - make the first trip one way

        I'll go too. Mmmmm we seem to have the core of a crew. Perhaps this can be the next Reg space exploration project?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Simplify the problem - make the first trip one way

        A suicide mission cool.

        And what if they find a cure for the terminally ill person while he is half way to mars.

        Bet he'd be pi**ed off.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Your sacrifice will not be in vain.

        You'll be remembered and honored by the future Mars settlers.

        They will name a bus stop after you.

        The one between Justin Bieber Avenue and Adam Sandler Boulevard, in Snooki City.

        1. Heironymous Coward

          Re: sacrifices

          Watch it, el Reg. Judging by the above, a significant proportion of your commentards are interested in volunteering to go on a suicide mission...

  7. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Spacex have launched, once, an unmanned capsule into orbit. Based on that he thinks he can bring launch cost down by three orders of magnitude within ten years. He's not been talking to Moller, has he?

    1. James Hughes 1


      He has been talking to the large company of extremely talented spaceflight engineers he has built up at SpaceX. The same team who built, in ten years, the first privately owned rocket and capsule that has been returned to earth in one piece at a price so far below the competitors they must be crying in their dodgy beer.

  8. jubtastic1

    Fascinating chap

    Apparently Elon is a billionaire living in California in a château that was imported from France. He owns Musk Industries, which constructs space shuttles. In addition, Musk supposedly owns the Eiffel Tower, but apparently couldn't export it from France because they wouldn't issue him an export permit. Musk is an accomplished pianist, as evidenced by his recital of Chopin's "Raindrop" Prelude in D flat major (op. 28) on his grand piano (which he plays in the key of D).

    This quote seems a bit worrying though:

    "First there was the dream, now there is reality. Here in the untainted cradle of the heavens will be created a new super race, a race of perfect physical specimens. You have been selected as its progenitors, like gods your offspring will return to Earth and shape it in their image. You have all served in public capacities in my terrestrial empire. Your seed like yourselves will pay deference to the ultimate dynasty which I alone have created. From their first day on Earth they will be able to look up and know that there is law and order in the heavens."

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fascinating chap

      When he can make a car that can fuel itself, let alone cost you a fair bite out of half a million to replace the battery's; Then and only then will I not spit out coffee to the Drax reference.

      1. SoaG

        Re: Fascinating chap

        What if he hires Richard Kiel as a bodyguard?

    2. SkepticalOptimist

      Re: Fascinating chap

      Is he also building a secret launching facility in the Brazillian jungle?

  9. Martin Budden Silver badge

    mistake in tagline

    "Technology ready for $500,000 round trip"

    Let me fix that for you:

    "Technology not ready for $500,000 round trip"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This guys is going to start his own religion or something if he keeps going like this.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Can't fail

    Even if it doesn't make it to Mar's and back then they can just as easily sell it to the milatary as a disposable satilite; Apparently they do appear to be in the market for one around this exact price range.

    Appart from that added bonus I can't see how they can do this for half a million return trip, not unless a trip is a new form of measurement for a kilogram. But aim high and shoot low, some say. They sure are and all the best too them. Even if they go 100x over budget then it will still be good value for money with what it is proposing to achieve.

  12. Herbert Meyer

    Middle class to Mars ?

    Their days on Earth are certainly numbered.

  13. Notas Badoff

    Tobacco, rum, beads, or Martians?

    Something's wrong with the description. Says $500K there-and-back again. Also says "... a middle class person could sell all their stuff on Earth and move to Mars if they want to." Which is it? $500K for round-trip or one-way?

    Which brings up two points - what's in the hold on the way back to Earth, and what happens when everyone wants to come back for the Queen's centennial?

    The Atlantic triangular trade was profitable because the ships' holds could be filled with something salable on each leg of the voyage. Like bodies to the Caribbean, tabacco to Europe, goods to Africa, or some other combination.

    Now if the holds are full of bodies to Mars, that's one leg paid up. What's in the hold on the way back, genuwine made-on-Mars dreamcatchers? You'd expect that some proportion of people would say they are going to set a spell. And you'd expect that 'colonization' would require a pretty hefty portion staying. So empty seats on the way back...

    But if we're really saying that $500K buys you a round-trip, even if not right away, then how do you schedule that? What if everyone decides together that that last meteorite shower was too much, hiding in a hole every time the sun belches is a drag, and they really want to compete in person in the next Earthovision contest? Oversubscribed holds full on the way back, and seats selling real cheap on the way out?

    I just gotta wonder about this, is this overconfidence or an accidental confidence game? If people had had a paid-for return ticket, would they have stayed in Georgia or Australia after a couple years?

    1. Jerome Fryer

      Re: Tobacco, rum, beads, or Martians?

      So are you suggesting that humanity colonise Mars with convicts?

      Or some form of contractual requirement that you'll stay permanently, or for a long duration?

      Mars seems somewhat inhospitable, compared to Earth (to put the situation extremely optimistically). We seem to be having a few problems here, so possibly "Mars colonies" is a bit of an over-reach at this point in human civilisation. Colonists can't simply chop trees to build log cabins, and fish, shoot game, and plant crops as soon as they arrive.

      1. Filippo Silver badge

        Re: colonising Mars with convicts

        Why not? It's worked fairly well in the past.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: colonising Mars with convicts

          "It's worked fairly well in the past."

          What? You're kidding! On the average night out in London, it's almost impossible to escape USAian "culture" served, supervised and/or sold by irritating Australian youth. Wish we'd never bothered...



      2. Mike Flugennock

        Re: Tobacco, rum, beads, or Martians?

        "So are you suggesting that humanity colonise Mars with convicts?"

        One word: Australia.

    2. Old Handle

      Re: Tobacco, rum, beads, or Martians?

      I don't know if the same economics apply to space flight. With a sailing ship it costs the same to travel full or empty. With a space ship a big part of the cost is getting out of the gravity well, so cargo directly increases the cost.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Bumpy Cat

      Re: Commercial space

      Well, I think we've found the first person who'll be voted out of the Mars colony ...

    2. crowley

      Re: Commercial space

      "If we put an Earth-like atmosphere on Mars it would be stripped away by the solar wind faster than we could build it - but not as fast as on the moon."

      There's an article I read about this issue, offering to substitute for Mars' lack of an iron core with a couple of nuke stations with great big electromagnets at the poles. The amount of power to repel the solar wind and protect the fledgling atmosphere was surprisingly modest.

      1. Mike Flugennock

        Re: Commercial space

        "There's an article I read about this issue, offering to substitute for Mars' lack of an iron core with a couple of nuke stations with great big electromagnets at the poles. The amount of power to repel the solar wind and protect the fledgling atmosphere was surprisingly modest."

        That reminds me a bit of an old Arthur C. Clarke story, The Sands Of Mars, but only a bit:

        "Hadfield reveals that scientists have been working on "Project Dawn", which involves the ignition of the moon Phobos and its use as a second “sun” for Mars. It will burn for at least one thousand years and the extra heat, together with mass production of the oxygen-generating plants, will eventually – it is hoped – make the Martian atmosphere breathable for humans.

        Gibson finds himself so persuaded of the importance of Mars as a self-sufficient world that he applies to stay on the planet, and is invited to take charge of public relations – in effect, to “sell” Mars to potential colonists...

    3. Javc

      Re: Commercial space

      Re: If I were picking an elsewhere, 1 Ceres would be my first pick.

      Well you're not picking, Musk is, and he picked Mars. If you want to go to Ceres, make a billion dollars, start your own rocket company, and get on with it. Or just buy one of his rockets, I'm sure he would send you to Ceres for the right price.

  15. Wombling_Free

    There's ten born every minute these days.

    I recall Pan Am doing this with moonflights as PR stunt / BBQ money raising event back in the 70's, probably to coincide with their logo being used in that awful film.

    I'm taking bookings for my proposed flights to JUPITER in 20 years time - $500,000 a seat, deposit of $5,000 payable now.

    If the trip is cancelled you get your deposit back - in 2032.

    (beer money until 2032!)

  16. Nights_are_Long

    If he can pull this off.

    Then he can sign me up, I don't care if it's only one way and I have to hard manual graft at the other end day in day out.

  17. FunkyEric

    It is good that someone is doing something inspiring for one

    All these people earn mega-bucks and sit in their mansions, then this guy comes along with a vision of doing something awesome. The rich guys who get remembered are te ones who do stuff whcih benefits others, and getting our race off this single planet has got to rank way up there. Yeah, he may miss by a bit, but he's doing alright at taking on NASA et al at the moment. Give the man a beer :-)

  18. RyokuMas

    Open your mind!

    "Essentially, a middle class person could sell all their stuff on Earth and move to Mars if they want to."

    ... am I the only one that saw this and thought "Get your ass to Mars"?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Open your mind!

      Probably. I saw it and thought the intersection of "smart enough to have a net worth of $500k" and "dumb enough to sell it all for a one-way (*) trip to Mars" was probably quite small. However, I then read the first dozen of so comments and it appears that the El Reg readership are willing. I think there's something Darwinian going on there.

      There are two reasons why it would be one-way. Firstly, you've sold everything on Earth and would return flat broke. Things would have to be near-terminal on Mars before you'd contemplate that.

      Secondly, the Martian environment is nowhere near as hospitable as TV and films make out, and even if the rocket trip were absolutely free, $500k is not going to change that. You'll be living in a very confined space, eating your own shit, drinking recycled piss and breathing your neighbours farts, for the rest of your natural like. Happily, that's such an unhealthy lifestyle that you won't survive very long. In fact, you probably won't last as far as the next launch-window for the return trip to Earth. Even if you did, you'd be trampled to death in the rush.

      1. Bassey

        Re: Open your mind!

        "You'll be living in a very confined space, eating your own shit, drinking recycled piss and breathing your neighbours farts, for the rest of your natural life"

        So that would be just like now then, yeah?

        Strangely, the Reg has missed the important part of this interview. He says he will not be carrying fuel with him for the return journey. This was covered in Rubin's Mars proposal to NASA 20+ years ago but nobody seems to have mentioned it since. You send small rocket-fuel generation plants out a few years before you need to travel. Land them on Mars and set them off generating rocket fuel (all the ingredients are there). Wait until you know the fuel is there, ready and waiting and then set off with just what you need for the outward journey.

        It is a bloody clever way of doing it. It is both safer AND cheaper.

        As I say, I'm surprised the Reg didn't pick up on this part of the interview as it seemed like the one bit of genuinely interesting science/engineering in the interview. The rest was the usual (unfortunately, entirely necessary) hype and self promotion.

    2. LinkOfHyrule
      Thumb Up

      Re: Open your mind!

      I had to scroll past about 25 comments to find this gem! And no, you are not the first person to think that - but are you like me, also thinking about three-breasted women?

      I'm up-voting yo' ass! To Mars!!!!

  19. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    The final frontier.

    If the middle classes have to sell all their stuff for a ticket to Mars they'll be penniless when they get there. Planet of the tramps, it would seem.

    The other thing is that it's notoriously difficult to land stuff on Mars. I'm not quite sure what the percentages of hits vs. fails are, but from what I remember it's rather dismal - (imperial units, metric measurements, etc., and so forth). So the way I see it you could be stuck on a small rocket with some lousy people for 6 months just to get yourself splattered all over Mars when you get there. Sounds like fun. Perhaps a good crash after 6 months of cabin fever would be a nice way to relieve boredom.

    And I sure hope that radiation shield works.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The final frontier.

      "If the middle classes have to sell all their stuff for a ticket to Mars they'll be penniless when they get there. Planet of the tramps, it would seem."

      Yeah cos money is going to be *so* useful out there they'd be fools not to take any.

    2. Tasogare

      Re: The final frontier.

      Presumably the landing difficulties wouldn't be as bad with a human pilot. IIRC part of the problem doing proper landings on Mars is a communications delay measured in minutes -- far too slow to respond to unexpected conditions, so you have to automate it and pray.

      I'd go...except I need permanent meds that would be unavailable on Mars. :-( A shame; I'd like to see a real frontier.

    3. James Hughes 1

      Re: The final frontier. @Sceptic Tank

      Crikey - I wonder if they will try out all this tech before putting people on it. Or are they just going to take pot luck and hope it all works first time....Hmmm...


  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember the Golgafrinchans!!! or send the politicians

  21. Graham Bartlett

    "Essentially, a middle class person could sell all their stuff on Earth and move to Mars if they want to."

    And die immediately. Yay.

  22. The elephant in the room


    Transporting undesirables to Mars reminds me of Brass Eye - but it will be very important to make sure an 8 year old boy doesnt accidentally get loaded into the spaceship...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Musk said, "The most important thing is to ensure that we preserve the future of humanity, and we do everything we can to ensure that human civilization will last as long as possible. The longer we last, the more we'll learn and the more we'll discover. I'm most concerned with securing the longevity of humanity."

    "Out of the Silent Planet" anyone?

    1. QDP


      Saving what and WHY? we're already doing great screwing up THIS planet. Our civilization needs to be re-booted, failed experiment, move on. NEXT!

  24. Lars Silver badge


    "I'm most concerned with securing the longevity of humanity." .

    "the ultimate goal is to get humanity off a single planet to ensure the continuation of the species."

    "a column of water pointed at the Sun would provide protection from solar storms"

    "Martian atmosphere (for humans)!!.

    The only thing that concerns him is to get enough people investing money into something

    with a very large part of "small print".

    Good luck, still.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He's Eccentric

    Poor people are crazy.

  26. QDP


    OK, so it's now financially plausible to plan this idiotic trip/concept.

    Let's see: What's so fun about going into space? Really!

    Reality CHECK:

    It's just about total vacuum out there, the human body can survive no more than a few secs

    a scorching 180º+ in sunlight,

    and about -240º in shade.

    You cannot survive for any length of time without gravity, your body will deteriorate

    the radiation levels are mind-altering,

    and your reliance is on technology that is as light and as complex as is necessary to get you up there. Things do break and wear out. Up there, this isn't not an option

    Risk is more than huge, and SHOULD you get to Mars, -oh please, GO- again you'll be relying on technology and resupply that is at best several long months away from potential use/realization.

    So you want to be cooped up in the tiniest of spaces, without privacy, with a group of very high strung type 1A people, who probably also have great difficulty just getting along. There are few choices here and simple hygiene -and even waste disposal- is very complex.

    NO THANKS, I'm here on our warm, sunny, fuzzy, clean, huge planet with all amenities, and choices- the options of a simple W/C and a BMW to hop on and get away from it all. My option. Btew, here You also can commit suicide much cheaper than that half mill....

    1. Mussie (Ed)

      Re: GET REAL

      Your an apple user right ?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like