SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes the human race should aspire to colonize the solar system, rather than just making do with inhabiting planet Earth.
"Are we on the path to becoming a multi-planet species or not?" Musk asked rhetorically at a recent conference on propulsion. "[Because] if we're not, it's really not that exciting after all."
According to Musk, the real challenge of landing astronauts on Mars is transporting large amounts of cargo and people, a mission which will require a rapidly and fully reusable rocket.
"[Of course] there's a reason no one has invented a fully reusable rocket before," Musk said. "It's super-damn hard."
Nevertheless, the billionaire CEO believes the Falcon 9 rocket recently tested by SpaceX could help the human race fulfill its dream of interplanetary travel.
The rocket is currently capable of generating approximately 3.8 million pounds (1,700 metric tons) of thrust, allowing it to carry satellites, cargo, and even humans to other planets.
"It's [certainly] got potential as a generalized science delivery platform for other planets in the solar system," Musk confirmed.
He added that a Mars base could help encourage further exploration of the red planet and prompt additional missions to other worlds.
"[Remember], as soon as you've got a base on Mars, you've got a [real] 'forcing function' for improving the transportation capability."
It should be noted that NASA and SpaceX are currently discussing a theoretical (unmanned) "Red Dragon” exploratory mission to Mars which would be tasked with searching for evidence of life buried in the planet’s soil.
If the mission is ultimately approved, NASA hardware would be flown to the Red Planet aboard SpaceX’s Dragon capsule - which the corporation is already using to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
The "Red Dragon Mission" could be ready to launch by 2018 and would cost approximately $400 million.
[Via Fox News]