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Elon Musk on Mars: 'You may not come back alive'

Elon Musk on Mars: 'You may not come back alive'

(CNN Business) - There may be no bigger promoter of the idea that humanity should go to Mars than Elon Musk. But Musk is once again in the news for admitting, though not for the first time, the truth about his dream: "A lot of people will probably die" in the process.

Elon Musk on Mars: 'You may not come back alive'


Musk made the comments during an interview with XPrize founder Peter Diamandis last week, adding about the trip: "It's uncomfortable. It's a long trip, you may not come back alive."

"We will not make anyone leave," he added. "Volunteers only."

Musk has been talking about his interplanetary ambitions for two decades: The founding mission of his rocket company SpaceX was to create the technology necessary to transport humans to and from Mars. The company is currently testing (and so far exploiting) early unmanned iterations of a vehicle called the Starship, which Musk hopes will be capable of the arduous journey, although no one has been injured.


But Musk has spoken frequently about the unavoidable dangers of his plans to travel to Mars, telling a virtual conference in August that there is a "good chance he will die" on one of SpaceX's first missions to Mars. Such risk predictions follow historic human spaceflight initiatives: Three astronauts died in a fire during ground tests during NASA's Apollo program last century, and another 14 astronauts died during the space shuttle era in the disasters of Columbia and Challenger.

Musk has previously said that he hopes to one day live on Mars, but has not indicated that he would be part of any early settlement missions.

However, he acknowledged that gathering crews for the first missions to Mars will be "like that advertisement for Shackleton going to Antarctica," referring to a newspaper advertisement that British explorer Ernest Shackleton allegedly placed in a newspaper at the turn of the century. XIX. when he tried to gather a crew for the first excursion to Antarctica.

"Men Wanted for Dangerous Travel, Low Wages, Freezing Cold, Long Months of Complete Darkness, Constant Danger, Doubtful Safe Return, Honor and Recognition in Case of Success," the alleged ad, which Shackleton is said to have received over 5,000 answer, read. But historians have questioned the legitimacy of the ad and the tradition that surrounds it.

SpaceX's plans for a settlement on Mars raise numerous technological, political and ethical questions. One of the most challenging hurdles may also be financial, and SpaceX is likely still many, many years away from developing all the technology that such an agreement would require.

The planet is also an extremely lethal place to visit: humans could die from radiation exposure, and the planet's surface has such low atmospheric pressure that a person's blood would literally boil if they were exposed to the elements. That means the settlers would need to live permanently in airtight habitats or clumsy spacesuits to keep them alive. NASA and others have been researching possible Mars habitats and survival methods for decades, but there is still no clearly defined path to follow.


Still, Musk said SpaceX is aggressively moving forward with its plans to develop the necessary rocket technology, because he believes that establishing a human settlement on Mars will be crucial to the long-term survival of our species. Last year, he also proposed an aggressive schedule to bring the first crew to the surface for 2026. If Earth becomes uninhabitable due to natural or man-made disasters, he says, having a backup planet will be the best chance to The humanity.

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