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Elon Musk Dreams of a Martian Metropolis

Sep 15, 2014 02:59 PM EDT
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Just last week, Elon Musk revealed that one of his main goals for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is to eventually build a city on Mars, ushering in an age when humanity is a multi-planet dwelling species.

This was first revealed on record during a press briefing in Tokyo, Japan on Sept. 8.

"The reason I haven't taken SpaceX public is the goals of SpaceX are very long-term, which is to establish a city on Mars," the billionaire CEO of SpaceX told reporters at the briefing.

And while this sounds like a pretty far-fetched goal to have, Musk is well known for perusing and actually achieving some hefty ambitions.

As the founder of Tesla motors, Musk once declared a dream that one day there would be affordable, yet fully-electric cars on the road that could achieve 200 miles or more to a charge. While the company's highly exclusive Tesla Roadster - starting at a whopping base price of $109,000 - was quite far from this ultimate goal, its latest line of Model S cars start at the price of your average luxury sedan (~ $71,000) and boasts a charge range of up to 265 miles. Even more recently, Tesla Motors announced that they were dropping all their patents "in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology."

In other words, Musk wants to see a fully electric automotive world so bad that he and his company are willing to part with the exclusive rights to revolutionary technologies - such as the design of quad servo engines and "supercharcher" charging stations - simply to let the industry grow.

And while Tesla remains a publicly traded company that is doing relatively well for itself, SpaceX remains entirely private, allowing it to make decisions even more brash than the Tesla patent decision to see dreams become reality. With SpaceX, Musk won't have a board of shareholders to answer to. (Scroll to read on...)

Musk also recently called Mars "a serious fixer upper" when talking to Stephen Colbert about putting man on the Red Planet, and like any fixer-upper, making it a real home would take a lot of work and money.

"But it's possible," he reiterated, adding that any Mars-related goal for SpaceX is an exceptionally long-term one.

Still, that hasn't stopped Musk from saying in previous meetings with the press that SpaceX will be putting a man on Mars, albeit temporarily, within the next decade - especially if NASA can't get its act together.

He said on CNBC's "Closing Bell" that this is a necessity for humanity to avoid encroaching doom.

Getting to Mars "will define a fundamental bifurcation of the future of human civilization," he explained. "[We] will either be a multi-planet species out there among the stars or a single planet species until some eventual extinction event, natural or manmade."

"The thing that matters long-term," he added, "is to have a self-sustaining city on Mars."

But despite how "essential" such a project really is, many experts have their doubts that SpaceX is the company for the job. (Scroll to read on...)

"Private enterprise will not ever lead a space frontier," reputed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said in a Business Insider interview.  "Not because I don't want them to, but my read of history tells me 'they can't.' It's not possible."

The scientist adds that because of all the unforeseen risks and expenses, space is just not the place where you can establish a market. It's only after the unforeseen is unveiled and accounted for that a company like SpaceX should take initiative.

Tyson said that he thinks where Musk's company is now - as a leader in transportation of goods and eventually crew to and from the International Space Station (ISS) - is exactly where private enterprises belong.

"NASA should never had been in that business," he added, referring to NASA's infamously costly space shuttle program.

And while Tyson is happy to finally see private initiative, he still believes that it is the government's job to be explorers and first colonists.

"Once the maps are drawn and risks are established, then you can farm that off to industry."

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