Mars or bust! Elon Musk talks Star Trek and space colonies at MIT

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SpaceX has its roots in billionaire Elon Musk’s interest in reaching Mars. That much is part of the legend. But you don’t realize how serious Musk is about sending humans to other planets until he’s speaking live.

In a talk that drew several spontaneous rounds of applause and ended with a standing ovation, Musk talked Tesla, SpaceX, and the future of humans in space at the closing talk at the centennial celebrations of MIT’s historic aeronautics and astronautics department.

“The basic ingredients are there,” Musk told a sold-out crowd in MIT’s Kresge auditorium.

Of course, humans are going to need to figure out a few things if we’re going to make it to our neighbor planet. Robust, reusable landing gear (which SpaceX is tussling with already) is at the top of the list. Also energy: Power generation on Mars is going to be an “interesting problem,” Musk said.

In Musk’s view, an investment in becoming a “multi-planet” species is essential for our longevity.

It could come fairly cheap.  “One percent of our resources, we could be buying life insurance collectively for life,” Musk said. And it just requires a small reshuffling of our priorities. “Lipstick or Mars colonies?” he asked.

He envisions an Olympics-style competitive future in which countries compete to build the necessary technology.

Musk fans will be delighted to know that he grew up enjoying the Star Trek series because of it’s optimistic view of the future, he told an MIT student who asked about his science fiction tastes. “There are so many post-apocalyptic futures, it’s like, can we have one that’s nice.”

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at [email protected]
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