Awhile ago Elon Musk addressed the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico and gave details on his vision of humans colonizing our Solar System. He explained the technology needed and how SpaceX, or any other institution, could realize the colonization of Mars.
Elon Musk is taking a practical approach to space travel, he believes to realize the colonization of Mars in the foreseeable future, it has to be affordable and sustainable. I was impressed by his vision and his commitment to this vision or dream.
"Without someone with a real ideological commitment, it didn't seem we were on any trajectory to become a spacefaring civilisation."
His aim is a self sustaining colony on the red planet. Apparently to achieve that you would need around a million people living on Mars. He plans to build an armada of reusable spaceships, each with the capacity to transport 100 settlers plus luggage, in order to achieve his goal within a lifetime.
We have been planning a Mars colony ever since Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, back in ‘69. The last two American presidents have repeatedly announced a Mars mission, every space agency in the World is working on a . The Russians, Indians, Chinese, Europeans and even the Emirates are planning one. And this can be the main reason why we haven’t achieved much since the moon landings - government funded agencies with no commitment.
Technology and Culture are two different pairs of shoes
As Mr. Musk mentioned in his presentation, technological advancement does not automatically equal cultural advancement. Government sponsored space agencies are good because they get funding, but Research then becomes dependent on politicians and their politics. One head of state starts a project, then the next one decides buying a few more submarines is better than flying to Mars.
Over funding the agencies also has the negative effect of not encouraging efficiency, making space missions ridiculously expensive, discouraging continued funding, catch-22.
If any government funded space agency should manage to send humans to Mars, the fight will begin on where this specific human should have been born, the tan of his/her skin and which gods did the person’s ancestors worship. Politicians tend to have their own definition of who is a part of the human race, depending on what will get them reelected.
Unfortunately I doubt that any private visionary could realize such a project without government help. But since governments are reluctant on spending the taxpayer’s money on anything that won’t blow something else up, they will need some selfless private corporation to fund mankind’s quest of space (in exchange for any shiny stones or metals they happen to find on the way).
I have the feeling that Elon Musk is very serious about his dream, he has the intelligence, enthusiasm and necessary assets to get the first humans on Mars. And with room for a 100 passengers, he can keep a lot of people happy regarding the diversity of the first human Martians.
If you are interested in Elon Musk’s vision and his plans, you can watch his presentation below