Many consider Elon Musk the Tony Stark of the real world, only without the Ironman suit and an electromagnetic Arc Reactor in his chest. But hey, anything is possible; like putting humans on Mars within the next 12 years.
Musk – billionaire, inventor, and CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors – claims he can put humans on Mars ten years earlier than NASA, whose own plan requires billions of dollars in public funding, and a redesigned rocket big enough for such a huge endeavor.
Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2013, Musk was the man behind the unprecedented release of all Tesla Motor’s designs to the public, with the sole intention of giving the entire electric car industry a giant leap in the right direction. For the CEO of the world’s most successful and advanced electric car company in a multi-billion dollar industry to suddenly give away the company’s technologies and patents to all of its competitors, it’s fair to make the assumption that Elon Musk has his eyes set on bigger and better things, like ensuring the survival of the entire human species.
With that being said, don’t get too excited about his announcement. There are some highly qualified scientists who do not think it is possible for a private enterprise to ever put humans on Mars. In the video below, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, one of the most highly respected and regarded astrophysicists in the world, explains why he believes Elon Musk’s goal is not possible.
Although Tyson amply casts doubt on the possibility, in an interview with CNBC Musk appeared to be very optimistic about the prospect of putting humans on Mars within the next 10-12 years, even going so far as to offer a taunting news headline when he is quoted saying, “Just watch me!” In the interview, Musk went on to raise the stakes by saying, “But the thing that matters long term is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars, to make life multi-planetary.” According to Musk, the SpaceX goal is essential to the future survival of the human species. “We will either be a multi-planet species and out there among the stars, or we will be a single-planet species until some eventual extinction event, either natural or man-made.”
Although Musk often works closely with NASA, using rockets to make deliveries to the International Space Station, SpaceX is a completely separate entity as a private space organization. Planning to put humans on Mars earlier than NASA doesn’t necessarily mean that SpaceX is competing with NASA. Musk is quite the admirer of the space agency, pointing out that without the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s pioneering work, SpaceX could never have gotten as far as it has. Musk’s new rocket, the Falcon Heavy booster, is scheduled to fly next year, and it is more than capable of carrying the payload for assembling a Mars-destined spaceship.
Musk was hailed by the magazine ‘The Atlantic’ as the greatest inventor alive today. But Elon is not just brains and wit, he has taken and endured several risks and personal set backs along the way to establishing his career. In 2008, he fought through a near nervous breakdown in an attempt to keep both SpaceX and Tesla alive, when both ventures nearly went bankrupt simultaneously. Instead of saving one business and letting the other fold as most people would have done, he split all of his remaining money between the two, which was a massive risk that ended up saving both.
Several decades ago, the mere notion of a human ever setting foot on Mars was just table-talk even among astrophysicists. People were amazed, and rightfully so, when astronauts first set foot on the moon during the space race of the Cold War (and no, the moon landing was not a hoax; that’s been thoroughly disproved). The idea of planning a trip to the Red Planet was out of the question at the time.
Now that we have an increasing number of NASA rovers planned for scouring Mars, the possibility of humans actually setting foot on Mars in our lifetime is not unlikely. Whether it is the private enterprise SpaceX, who consistently disproves highly respected skeptics, or NASA, who believes it can be accomplished in the 2030’s, the future of Mars exploration and habitation is all but assured.
When there is ingenuity, money, and determination, almost anything can happen. As much as I am a fan of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and often spend countless hours on Youtube listening to his speeches, I do hope that this one time, he is wrong.