Humans have dreamed of living on Mars since the 19th century, with plenty of science fiction novels and movies on the subject. However, the reality of Mars colonisation has always been far off, with technology not being up to scratch and the costs being so exorbitant that even the richest might hesitate to fork out. However, as technological advancements race on, the dream of living on Mars seems to not be such a pipe dream after all – but will it be for the rich or are we looking at something more?
The Race to Mars
The last few years have seen many contenders in the race to colonise Mars. Space agencies such as NASA, Roscosmos (Russian space program) and the China National Space administration are up against private organisations such as Lockeed Martin, Boeing, and of course SpaceX. Even the United Arab Emirates announced their goal of building a city 600 000 strong by 2117.
All the companies show promises of sleek, space-chic set-ups with power, greenhouses, malls, art galleries, and luxury housing. All this obviously screams “elite only” and makes us average Joe’s wonder if this might be a bit “2012” where the rich book their tickets and leave us behind to perish. It might seem to be that way for most of the plans, but SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk seem to have other plans in store. Starting with the Falcon 1 as early as 2008, Musk has made it his mission to not only colonise Mars but to make it affordable as well.
Anyone can go to Mars
Now by affordable we mean: affordable in terms of space travel costs. Most would be looking at millions for a ticket to go live on the red planet but Musk has said that he wants to get the cost of moving to Mars roughly equal to the median house price in the US. For those not in the know, that’s roughly $200 000. He says that keeping the costs high will actually mean less of a chance of establishing a self-sustaining civilisation. Why? Well, not everybody would want to go in the first place.
Going to Mars is by no means a holiday to the Bahamas. Space travel is gruelling and the first people to go would need to help set up the colony. This means hard labour, less-than-pleasant conditions and of course the high possibility of death. Mars is an unforgiving planet and would have to be made “human friendly”. Oh and there is the whole “you might not return to Earth” thing. Doesn’t sound much like an escape hatch for the rich now does it.
The Long Haul
Although Musk dreams of the colony being much like our home planet in terms of pizza huts and bowling alleys, it will take a long time before it reaches that point. One positive is that jobs would definitely not be in short supply.
Musk says that by making the ticket price that of an average house, people would be able to invest in moving to Mars through saving up. Others could also get sponsorship.
So the good news is that tickets to Mars don’t seem to be only for the exclusive elite worth millions. As far as SpaceX is concerned, we could see unmanned ships head over to Mars as early as 2022 to set up the basics. Musk’s plan is to then have manned ships land in 2024, with a life-supporting infrastructure in place, ready to begin the first colony.
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