Many people believe that the Mars colonization project is something that will only be open to the rich, as a ticket to the red planet will cost a fortune. Elon Musk, who is leading SpaceX’s Mars mission, has not only dismissed such concerns, but also stated that it will likely be people from the middle-class who might form the majority of travelers.
Affordable Mars travel
According to Musk, the living conditions on Mars are going to be pretty rough. In addition, the earliest settlers will also have to do the bulk of the hard task of building up the basic infrastructure of a colony.
People could even die on the planet. He believes that these factors will dissuade a large number of wealthy people from buying a ticket to Mars. After all, why leave the comforts of Earth and go live on a deserted planet without the possibility of ever coming back?
As far as cost is concerned, Musk wants to bring down the ticket price of the trip to that of an average home in the U.S. This will enable middle-class people to save up enough funds to sign up for the journey.
“Not everyone would want to go. In fact, probably a relatively small number of people from Earth would want to go, but enough would want to go who could afford it for it to happen… People could also get sponsorships. It gets to the point where almost anyone, if they saved up and this was their goal, could buy a ticket and move to Mars — and given that Mars would have a labor shortage for a long time, jobs would not be in short supply,” Musk said in a statement (Gizmodo).
Some people who are looking forward to the trip are reportedly working with financial planners to arrange loans. Experts believe that funding a person to Mars might soon become an investment product in itself in the near future. If the returns on such an investment are found to be excellent with an acceptable risk, the resulting surge in funding interest could easily support the growth of a Mars colonization industry. Musk expects a ticket to Mars to cost around US$200,000.
Mars colonization timeline
In 2022, SpaceX plans on sending two missions to Mars. The spaceships would land on the Martian surface either in the same year or in 2023 depending on how close Earth and Mars are at the time of launch. These would be unmanned missions, carrying only cargo and supplies.
After landing, the mission will determine the water resources on the surface, potential hazards of the landing site, and will put in place some basic infrastructure like landing pads that will help the next series of manned missions.
By 2024, the first crewed mission will fly off from Earth. They will land on the Martian surface by 2025. It is very likely that the crew will use the spaceship itself as a habitat to avoid the costs of building new living quarters on Mars.
The first permanent Martian base, which Musk calls “Mars Base Alpha,” is expected to be completed by 2028. It will include a power station, a series of blast domes for raising crops, and other basic facilities. By the 2030s, a full-fledged city may be built. Musk believes SpaceX will settle about a million people on Mars.