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26th Apr 2021

Elon Musk admits ‘a bunch of people will die’ during first Mars voyage

Danny Jones

Elon Musk says people 'will die' in SpaceX's Mars mission

He’s all heart, our Elon

Billionaire business magnate, engineer and all-around meme, Elon Musk, has been developing his SpaceX project for almost two decades now and whilst the primary mission remains getting to Mars, the means don’t seem to matter so much.

As per his interview with the founder of the X Prize Foundation, Peter Diamandis, Musk talks about starting sustainable human settlements on Mars. In what is becoming less and less a hypothetical discussion, it doesn’t take him long to admit “a bunch of people will probably die”. You can watch the full thing here:

Colonising Mars is a concept we’ve heard plenty about in the past decade or so and clearly, the logistics and technological undertaking will be huge, but we didn’t expect someone to be so blasé about the possible loss of life. While space exploration is a valuable expedition and the complications and dangerous nature are somewhat obvious, it’s his tone that rubs you the wrong way.

In the full quote, Musk compares the prospect of going to Mars as “like that ad book for Shackleton going to the Antarctic. You know it is dangerous, it’s uncomfortable and it’s a long journey. You might not come back alive […] but it is a glorious adventure and it will be an amazing experience.”

It is at this point where he decides to double-down, reinforcing that “You might die, you probably won’t have good food […] if an arduous and dangerous journey, where you may not come back alive appeals to you but its a glorious adventure, sounds appealing, Mars is the place – and that’s the ad”.

It’s worth noting that he jovially laughs throughout the entire interview, as if to try and render all of these claims as understated, as opposed to a very serious consequence of this cosmic conquest. It’s also slightly jarring that he continues to refer to his soft sell as an advert, as opposed to being an important and viable alternative that the world needs in light of the ongoing climate crisis.

In fairness, Diamandis does point out that the project still has “thousands if not millions of volunteers” who not only want to go but be a “part of history”. Nevertheless, Musk continues to speak fairly off-handedly, reiterating casually that “honestly, a bunch of people will probably die in the beginning”, before describing it as “tough sledding over there.” – still laughing throughout.

Musk’s SpaceX team has just sent a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) and is looking to land humans on Mars by 2026 – a whole seven years earlier than NASA‘s projected date of 2033. It seems ‘The Space Race’ is back on.

However, to Musk, this is all sounds like just another one of his many projects as opposed to an effort to save mankind’s future or anything virtuous like that. It was only recently that his other company, Neuralink, and their video involving a monkey playing Pong with her mind was the topic of the day.

Neuralink allows monkey to play Pong with its mind

He even jokes in the interview that he has been criticised by many for simply funding “an escape hatch for rich people”, though he maintains that the main goal is to “extend life beyond Earth and make life multi-planetary”.

He goes on to describe humanity as “the agent of life and we have an obligation to ensure the creatures of Earth continue even if there is a calamity on Earth, whether it is man-made or a natural calamity”, before citing the very legitimate point that “if you look at the fossil record there are many mass extinctions”.

Though the way he delivers this information may feel tactless at times, Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme and similar projects are still an immensely vital endeavour.  As well as global warming, he also references humankind’s wider self-destructive nature, posing the question: “What comes first – a self-sustaining city on Mars or World War Three?”