Skip to main content
Move the World.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk gave a rousing presentation Tuesday on his company’s long-term plan for getting to Mars, covering the basic economics of deep space travel, the population threshold necessary for establishing a civilization off Planet Earth, and the technology SpaceX is developing to make Musk’s vision a reality.

Let’s start with the economics of doing a Mars mission today:

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-4-39-30-pm

In short, we can’t go to Mars now. There’s no technology for doing so. Musk then said if we went by the closest comparison--the Apollo trips to the moon, which are the farthest space flights humans have taken--it’d be only slightly less impossible:

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-4-39-51-pm

“You can’t create a self-sustaining civilization with tickets that cost $10 billion a person,” Musk said. But if SpaceX can bring the cost down to roughly the median cost of a U.S. home, the Venn diagram might look like this:

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-4-40-08-pm

At that price point, Musk believes humans could (and would) begin colonizing Mars. And to keep costs at roughly $140,000 per ton of cargo (which would include the person, their luggage, and all the life support required to keep them healthy on the year-long trip), SpaceX needs to achieve these four things:

-Full reusability of the rockets, tankers, and ships
-The ability to fuel up in orbit
-The ability to produce fuel on Mars itself (so that ships can come back to Earth)
-The right propellant

Musk envisions a colony--and then a civilization--on Mars

Musk says we’d need one million people on Mars to call it a civilization. With one ship carrying 100 passengers per ship, SpaceX would need to make 10,000 roundtrip flights. That’s no way to build a civilization, so Musk envisions building up to 1,000 ships, with fleets of 25 ships comprising each trip to Mars (and back). At that rate, SpaceX could increase the planet’s population by 2,500 every 12 months.

And while $140,000 is still an incredible amount of money, Musk says Mars “would have a labor shortage for a long time, so jobs would not be in short supply.”

From the first trip to Mars, Musk anticipates it would take somewhere from 40 to 100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization on Mars.

Who can go?

Musk says the question early Mars travelers need to ask themselves is, “Are you prepared to die?” If yes, “then you’re a candidate.”

So what’s the timeline?

musktimeline

In case you can’t read the fine print (all these photos are screenshots from Musk’s presentation), trips to Mars start in 2023.

Want to hear more? Check out the full presentation here:

More About

Future of Cities
Merging Nature and Sustainable Design: An Interview with Daan Roosegaarde
Daan Roosegaarde is a Dutch architect on a mission to create a more efficient and beautiful world through innovative, sustainable design.
Future of Cities
Merging Nature and Sustainable Design: An Interview with Daan Roosegaarde
From towers that create pockets of clean air to a luminescent bike path that glows like children's ceiling stars, Daan Roosegaarde's entire practice is centered around the beauty of living with nature and removing pollution from urban life.

From towers that create pockets of clean air to a luminescent bike path that glows like children's ceiling stars and windmills drawing lines of light across the sky, Daan Roosegaarde's entire practice is centered around the beauty of living with nature and removing pollution from urban life.

Innovation
Giving Animals New Legs
Giving Animals New Legs
Watch Now
Innovation
Giving Animals New Legs
Derrick Campana is a prosthetics engineer helping animals walk again with artificial limbs.
Watch Now

Derrick Campana isn’t your typical... anything. He’s a prosthetics engineer helping animals walk again - or walk for the first time - with artificial limbs. In the old days when an animal had a broken leg, they would often be euthanized--and only if they were very lucky would they wind up with a leg cast. Derrick Campana wants to put those days in the past. He’s creating prosthetics and casts for all manner of...

Sponsored
Saving Lives with AI
Saving Lives with AI
Watch Now
Sponsored
Saving Lives with AI
Artificial intelligence can find hidden patterns in patient’s vital signs - and stop emergencies before they happen.
Watch Now

As hospitals collect more and more data, analyzing it is a challenge and an opportunity. Montefiore Medical Center of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine is a case study in how using artificial intelligence in hospitals can help improve outcomes. They’re working with Intel’s Healthcare AI team to develop machine learning algorithms that can see patterns within it. The result, which they call the Patient Centered...

Challengers
Failure is Inevitable, But It Doesn't Have to Ruin Your Life
Failure is Inevitable, But It Doesn't Have to Ruin Your Life
Challengers
Failure is Inevitable, But It Doesn't Have to Ruin Your Life
Why learning to suck at something is the only way to get good at it.
By Mike Riggs

Why learning to suck at something is the only way to get good at it.

Challengers
Can This Startup Build the School System of the Future?
Can This Startup Build the School System of the Future?
Challengers
Can This Startup Build the School System of the Future?
AltSchool wants to build a new school system based on a highly personalized education model that any school could...
By Mike Riggs

AltSchool wants to build a new school system based on a highly personalized education model that any school could join.

Challengers
Can This Startup Power the World With Nuclear?
Can This Startup Power the World With Nuclear?
Challengers
Can This Startup Power the World With Nuclear?
Leslie Dewan and her team at Transatomic believe they've figured out a safe, scalable, cost-effective way to power...
By Mike Riggs

Leslie Dewan and her team at Transatomic believe they've figured out a safe, scalable, cost-effective way to power the world with nuclear.

Challengers
An American Entrepreneur on the Importance of Chinese Manufacturing
An American Entrepreneur on the Importance of Chinese Manufacturing
Challengers
An American Entrepreneur on the Importance of Chinese Manufacturing
Greg Shugar, founder of Tie Bar and Thread Experiment, discusses why his businesses wouldn’t have been possible...
By Mike Riggs

Greg Shugar, founder of Tie Bar and Thread Experiment, discusses why his businesses wouldn’t have been possible without Chinese factories.